Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gender Equality

Wait Time for Students
You are probably nodding your head at this. You learned about wait time in your training, and you are sure you use it. But go back and listen to your tape or watch your video. Do you really use it? Do you really wait 4-5 seconds until you call on someone? Do you look around to get eye contact with almost everyone before you make a choice? This gives you time to think about whom to select, and more importantly, gives all students time to formulate answers and volunteer. Research shows that this technique is particularly valuable for girls and students who are learning English, more than half the students in all of our classrooms.

Wait Time for You
This is probably a new one. I know I didn’t think about this in college. But after a student has responded, wait 4-5 seconds to reply. This gives you time to process the student’s answer and think about how to respond most effectively. This also shows students that you value their responses. It models the kind of behavior you want them to emulate. Waiting to reply helps both you and students.

Move Kids Around
After observing your own teaching, ask youself, which kids got your attention on your recording? Was it the ones who sit in the front rows, the ones who sit in the middle of the room? I know that when I watch videos of myself teaching or presenting, I see that I tend to look to the right side of the room—probably because I am right-handed. When I am sitting on the floor with children, it is excruciatingly obvious. I have had to make a concerted effort to turn my body to face and talk to the people on my left side.

Do you stay in one place? If you do, you may notice that you tend to talk to kids who are closer to you. Remember, the most important thing you can give your students is your time and attention, even if it is negative attention. The child who misbehaves has gotten your attention, and the quiet students lose out. Simple as that. So shuffle yourself or your students to compensate for your natural tendencies.

Listen to Your Responses
Many teachers have been observed giving different kinds of feedback to boys and girls. Boys tend to receive correction, help, and criticism. Most follow-up questions and suggestions for improvement are directed at boys. But girls tend to receive comments on the appearance of their work, rather than the academic content. We want all children to dig deeper into academic understanding, and we can foster this by providing constructive thoughtful feedback to all children.

Pay attention to the kinds of informal interactions you have with students. Do you ask the boys about the weekend soccer game and tell the girls how pretty they look? Do you acknowledge the hard work that all students do, thereby helping them understand that effort produces improvement, or do you just grade the work?

Research shows that many girls seem to grow up feeling that they get good grades or perform well due to luck, not skill or effort. By feeling this way, they also feel that any failure is internal and due to their lack of intelligence or ability. They personalize it. Boys seem to feel that failure is due to illness, poor instruction—external factors. These two different approaches lead to girls downplaying success and boys taking credit.

Cringing again? Me, too. In all my life, I don’t think I have ever taken credit for an achievement by saying, even to myself, “I earned that. I worked hard for that and I deserve it.” All children need to see that hard work and perseverance pay off.

-Laura Reasoner Jones

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