Gender discrimination in my classroom? Never!

“You’re running like a girl!”

It was some time ago now when on a field somewhere in Birmingham I was shocked to hear the teacher in charge of the other school’s football team shout that. Presumably he was trying to encourage one of his football players to do better. And with righteous indignation I relayed what happened to my colleagues the next day. Of course I would never do anything like that.

And so for many years I have taught in various places and circumstances, content in the knowledge that I offer equal opportunities to the girls and boys in my class. Or so I thought.

This year I have started teaching at an independent boys school. One of the big changes has been getting used to calling the children in my class ‘boys’ and not ‘children’ or ‘kids’ or even ‘kiddiwinks’. (Sorry about that). But an interesting and more subtle thing has happened too. Starting the school has challenged how I view class dynamics.

Here’s an example. When I joined the school a couple of that staff who taught them last year informed me that a certain boy ‘is a lively one’. I immediately started thinking about which sensible girl I could put that boy with to calm then down. And then I realised there were no sensible girls, because you don’t get girls in a boys school.

And another example. I printed some display banners in outline so that they could be coloured by the children. That way the children could have more ownership of their classroom. And I wondered to myself which girls would volunteer to do the task. And then I realised no girls would do that task, because there are no girls in boys schools.

How fascinating.

Of course the boys did the colouring. And the lively boy is just that – lively, but quite able to respond to instructions. So there are no problems. But it’s made me wonder about the assumptions I’ve made for years.

Is there anybody else out there that does the ‘sensible girl’ thing? Or lets the girls do the colouring while the boys play with the marble run and the Brio? Or is it just me?

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