Lorraine Cleary

For the past few years I have taught younger classes up to First and at these age groups the gender inequality is not as obvious, as I have seen previously in senior classes. However there are many subtle indications that are a challenge to rectify.

The majority of the class genders mix well but there are some boys who will not play with girls and vice versa but don’t vocalise their reasons. Getting to the bottom of why, can be difficult.
I’ve noticed some boys, particularly, will not willingly clean up after their own lunch mess or sweep the floors or wash down the tables after art and through discussion its highlighted that boys don’t clean up. That’s not their job.

I believe following the series of lessons provided by this module, will help to highlight where and why the barriers exist and help me identify the areas we need to work on. The lessons themselves will be enlightening for the children, especially the lesson 2 on identifying and removing stereotypes in likes and dislikes, where boys not playing with girls might find more common ground to move forward. Or Lesson 4 on Gender Roles will open their minds to equality in roles and into a discussion that we have male carers of children in homes, male cleaners and male nurses as well as female engineers and professional soccer players etc.

Following the series of lessons I would take a suggestion from a participant of this course and bring in SET Teachers into the class to have small mixed/gender group discussions to ensure that every voice is heard equally and hopefully many misconceptions removed.

We could come up with a class action plan / contract that helps us plan activities for the coming year that, continuously re-enforces gender inequality. So agree a list of jobs that every person takes a turn at without prejudice. That one day per week we randomly select groups of children (equal mix of gender) to play games together in the yard, to show that they can have as much fun with the rest of the class be it boy or girl, rather than always being drawn to a select group of friends.
But also a regular dedicated slot in the week where we actively plan a series of gender exploring activities Examples are; A series of knitting and/or Needle point sessions. Basic First Aid Skills training where we have patients, nurses and doctors but as we practise the skills the genders must interchange. Also have everyone participate equally in sessions of lego and construction and airplane building, darts tournaments, things traditionally considered boys activities. (I’m sure they will have better suggestions). Their ideas could be incorporated under Art, SPHE or PE lessons. And definitely role playing activities in Drama on a regular basis where children take on the roles not stereotypical for them.

I would also like to find away to bring the discussion into the children’s homes. Maybe assign homework to investigate their mother’s lives prior to them having children. Some mothers may have given up a job to care for children and their child might see them in a different light, not just their caregiver. Ask them to describe one job in the home that they help their mother do, to make her life easier, and will they keep doing it. We could previously have spoken to parents to encourage them to think of jobs their child might be capable of. As many of the attitudes start at home, maybe we can get the conversation going amongst the children and parents.

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