How to Promote Gender Equality in the Classroom
It’s important that all class members be given the chance to succeed no matter their gender. You can help achieve gender equality in your classroom by challenging traditional stereotypes and creating equal opportunities for your students. By fostering an inclusive classroom environment, people of all genders will feel welcome and respected.
Using the Language of Gender Equality
Challenging Gender Stereotypes
Choose teaching examples that upend traditional gender stereotypes.Use examples that subvert conventional gender roles both professionally and in the home during lessons. This will help your students expand their perception of who can hold particular responsibilities.
- For example, write teaching examples that feature a male flight attendant, a female mechanic, or a stay-at-home dad.
Ask students what they mean when they use sexist language.Explain the social implications of gendered language, such as to “run like a girl” or “man up” when you hear these expressions at school. Describing the limits these expressions place on both genders can help your students grow in their thinking.
- You might say, “I heard you tell Max he serves ‘like a girl.’ What exactly did you mean by that? Lots of women are incredible at tennis; take Serena Williams.”
- You could say, “I heard you tell Alex to ‘be a man.’ What does that mean to you? Playing the violin is difficult, and Alex has worked really hard to master it. I don’t think there’s anything unmanly about that.”
Address when class materials stereotype one gender.Call out when class texts or videos tokenize one gender and talk about what it means for understanding the material. This will help your students analyze sources critically.
- For example, say a short story in an English class features one woman who constantly asks men in the story for direction and approval. You might say to your class, “Women are self-sufficient and don’t need this much direction. What do you think the author of the story is telling us about this narrator? How do you think he views women?”
Creating Equal Opportunities
Ask all students to participate in a variety of classroom chores.Don’t assign physical classroom responsibilities to boys and decorating or organizational tasks to girls. Assign all tasks to all students equally.
- Girls are perfectly capable of carrying sports equipment just as boys are of keeping a class calendar.
Call on students of both genders.Make a point of alternating between genders when you call on students to participate in class. Studies show that male and female teachers tend to call on male students more frequently.
- Alternating will give all students a chance to be heard.
- If you find that some students are shier than others, make a point of calling on quieter students as you alternate. That way everyone gets to contribute.
Address students equally.Shy away from using terms of endearment for girls such as “honey” or “sweetheart” or “sport” for boys. Even if well intentioned, this tone can come across as condescending or overly chummy with one gender.
- Call all students by their first names unless a student directs you to use a nickname.
Create mixed-gender groups for class projects and discussions.Show students that boys and girls can be strong team players by forming mixed-gender groups for class work. Students often self-segregate by gender when they make groups on their own.
- Working together in a group will show your students that both genders can provide valuable contributions.
- If your class doesn’t do many group projects, try an arranged seating chart to integrate the class more fully and increase engagement between students of different genders.
Fostering an Inclusive Environment
Use gender-neutral language when possible.Address your students collectively without using gendered language such as “guys,” which may make girls feel excluded. “Everyone” and “class” are great gender-neutral ways of addressing your group of students.
Avoid asking students to speak on behalf of their gender.Ask students only to speak for themselves rather than being a spokesperson for a larger group. Avoid asking questions with leading intros, such as, “How do you think most boys would feel about this story?”
- You might rephrase the question, “How did you feel about the representation of men in this story?”
- Let both boys and girls weigh in about how gender is portrayed in a given text or work. There isn’t a need to have only girls discuss the representation of women, for example.
Choose course materials by both men and women.Seek out materials for your class that represent perspectives from multiple genders. If you’re having trouble finding a cross-section, discuss your needs with a seasoned librarian.
- A librarian can typically introduce you to new authors or filmmakers so your syllabus is more inclusive. Your students will benefit from being exposed to multiple points of view.
- If you have trouble finding a range of critical opinions on a given subject, call out this shortcoming for older students. Describe any historical or social context that might explain this disparity.
Avoid separating supplies or materials by gender.Mix costumes and art supplies for younger students rather than dividing them by into sections for boys and girls. This will allow your students to express themselves creatively without anxiety about adhering to traditional gender roles.
- Creative play is an important part of development. Boys should feel free to experiment with glitter and girls to dress up as police officers.
- For older pupils, ask students of both genders to read dialog aloud in class without regard for the gender of the speaker. A female student can just as easily read the part of a king as a male student can read the part of a maid.
Refer to students using the pronouns they prefer.Support students who identify as another gender or non-gender binary by using their desired pronouns in class. If another student uses the wrong pronoun, correct them gently.
- You might say, “I hear that you liked Alexei’s point. Let’s respect her by using the pronoun she prefers.”
Videotape your class to examine your own teaching methods.Review the tape to see if you call on students of both genders, listen as intently to girls as you do to boys, and assess what types of questions you ask to students of each gender.
- Take notes to strategize about how you can tailor your own teaching to create a more equitable environment for your students.
- Most schools won’t have a problem with this, but it never hurts to ask an administrator first. You might say, “Do you mind if I film a class session to examine my own teaching methods?
Ask a trusted colleague sit in on a class session to give you feedback.Request that the colleague provide critical feedback on how you managed the class with gender equality in mind. Ask them to suggest strategies or different approaches you could try to give all your students an opportunity to succeed.
- If possible, have them sit in a future session to note if you’ve improved in their eyes. If not, brainstorm a new approach together.
- If there’s a teacher you feel does a particularly great job of creating gender equality in the classroom, ask for tips on achieving an optimal environment.
- If you are an administrator, hiring qualified educators of both genders is a great way to promote gender equality.
- If your students are older, ask for their feedback to help create an inclusive and equitable classroom environment.
Video: Gender Equality: Now
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