Gender Roles in Our Classrooms
What exactly are Gender Roles: A gender role is a set of societal norms dictating what types of behaviors are generally considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable for a person based on their actual or perceived sex or sexuality.
Why is this topic important?
Have you ever thought about what might happen to the student who feels they aren’t allowed to be themselves and lives their entire life thinking they are “wrong”? This is something that should be considered and applied to all students because it is something that we will likely face in the education department. There is a high chance that you will run into a student who has faced these kinds of problems, or you yourself may accidentally make a gender specific comment to a child who doesn’t even understand it yet. This topic needs to be explored and we as educators need to not fear what will happen when we go digging for answers
What might we see in our classrooms:
- Female students feel as though they must “dumb down” their abilities
- Female students can miss out on class time for violating dress codes
- Male students will be expected to excel in athletics
- Female students may avoid advanced mathematics or science because they dislike the teacher
- Male students will be judged by peers for taking an interest in the arts
- Female students will be judged by peers for taking an interest in math, science or physical activities
- Female students are likely to be oversexualized by their peers and by the administration
- Male students are much more likely to answer questions when asked in the classroom
- Male students are more likely to be bullied physically for not fitting in with other male students
- Male students are more likely to suffer in silence for fear of being seen as “girly”
- Female students will be judged for not dressing feminine
- In science classes boys tend to work the equipment and force girls into roles such as data recorder, reading instructor, or cleaning up the work area
- It may not seem as though it would be a problem with children of a young age, but building these expectations will have serious long term affects. In our field, it is very common for us to see children who are very into the stereotypical “girl things” and “boy things” that they come across in their everyday life.
Effects of Gender Roles:
- Gender role stereotyping impacts students' perceptions of their abilities and their achievements
- It may lead to low performance in students who do not believe they are capable succeeding in certain subjects
- Students may see themselves as different or incapable of fitting in
- Students can endure years of bullying when they do not match societies standards
- Students can develop depression, social anxiety and a hatred of social interactions
- For male students, the masculine gender role stereotype suggests that they should have natural talent to achieve, and that they are expected to show rationale behavior and logic as well as loud, dominant behaviors
- Students grades can suffer due to lack of focus, absences from school and lack of interest in class work
- Female students may feel the need to stay quiet, and self-reserved in order to fit into social circles
- Effects of bullying can lead students to suicidal thoughts/behaviors, self-harm and substance abuse
- Students may develop a low self-esteem
- Students may find themselves confused about how they perceive themselves and their bodies
What can we do?
- Be aware of our actions as teachers; how we address a group of students, what toys/books/activities we supply our students, how we respond to their questions, etc.
- Be open to student’s questions; while you need to remain appropriate with them, it is still important to answer honestly
- Don’t be afraid to talk about the difficult topics; students are going to be curious and we need to be willing to talk with them
- Be there for students who are wanting to be themselves; it isn’t easy for students to go against the flow, but when they are aware of their support system, it makes their lives a little bit easier
- Don’t be afraid to bring up these difficult topics to the administration or during staff meetings; it is wonderful when you can be there for your students, but imagine what can happen if everyone takes part
- Make yourself aware of the correct terminology (LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (and/or questioning) individuals/identities)
- Be an open individual; when you are open to new thinking, you are more likely to become more accepting of new people
- Love your students!
-Meghan P. McCormick and Erin E. O’Connor. (2014). Teacher–Child Relationship Quality and Academic Achievement in Elementary School: Does Gender Matter? Source: http://journals.ohiolink.edu/ejc/pdf.cgi/McCormick_Meghan_P._.pdf?issn=00220663&issue=v107i0002&article=502_trqaaaiesdgm
(This article discusses the importance of gender roles in relation to their academic performance in the classroom)
-Kate Paterson. (Fall, 2014). It’s harder to catch a boy because they’re tougher: Using Fairytales in the Classroom to Explore Children’s Understandings on Gender. Source: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.proxy.lib.miamioh.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=9509af39-144d-4df7-97e7-3c4d1ff3af08%40sessionmgr111&vid=12&hid=126
(This article discusses how the idea of gender can be taught to students at a young age thorugh the use of literature)
-Ellen A. Stone, Christia Spears Brown, and Jennifer A. Jewell. (September/October, 2015). The Sexualized Girl: A Within-Gender Stereotype Among Elementary School Children. Source: http://journals.ohiolink.edu.proxy.lib.miamioh.edu/ejc/pdf.cgi/Stone_Ellen_A.pdf?issn=00093920&issue=v86i0005&article=1604_tsgawsaesc
(This article discusses the effects of gender roles in Early Childhood settings and how easy it is for us as educators to slip into the roles ourselves)
-Danielle Bienvenue Bray. (18, April, 2015). Sissy Boy Mothering: Male Child Mother Figures in Middle-Grade Fantasy Literature. Source: http://journals.ohiolink.edu.proxy.lib.miamioh.edu/ejc/pdf.cgi/Bray_Danielle_Bienvenue.pdf?issn=00456713&issue=v46i0002&article=160_sbmmcmfimfl
(This article discusses the effects of different parenting styles on children and how it can shape them differently. It discusses the social and academic effects of different parenting styles)
-Britney G. Brinkman, Kelly L. Rabenstein, Lee A. Rosen and Toni S. Zimmerman. (21, July, 2012). Children’s Gender Identity Development: The Dynamic Negotiation Process Between Conformity and Authenticity. Source: http://yas.sagepub.com/content/46/6/835.full.pdf+html
(This article discusses the differences between being praised for being ones self and how it may negatively affect a student if they are unable to conform