Teaching when dealing with sexism

Next up is the latest installment of the Best Education Advice column. You can ask questions for the future column Here.


Reader’s question:

Dear Bonnie, do you have any curiosity tips for students who are not in the class? Do I find it difficult to connect them to me because of their preconceptions and sometimes I feel like I have to prove myself in order to earn their respect? –Professor member struggling to engage with students

When I first started teaching, I realized that I would politely call it “friction” to have a good relationship with some male students. One was telling me clearly that he had no experienced women in his life who were as direct and confident as I was. He was more accustomed to nurturing women and being passive about how he presented himself.

We all work in a context where bias exists and persists. Our intersection identity can provoke those challenges. Color teachers, for example, note large examples of gender identity and racial discrimination in their teaching. It is important to start by naming these prejudices before deciding how we can exist and sticking to our own identity.

My colleague Sylvia Kane, director of Vanguard University’s graduate education program, shared Recent episodes In my teaching in the Higher Aid podcast, colleagues and students have made the mistake of cleaning up spaces and spaces without teaching her. Ongoing The second part, Terry Jet, professor director of Black Affairs and Community Engagement Hub and professor of political science at Butler University, revealed how softly she expected students to talk about some of her skills. Jet spoke in an interview about the ways in which there is bias in the evaluation of curricula and is not always helpful in informing her teaching approaches.

In Bell Hook Teaching to Transition, she reveals how white students often expect black women to play a caring role in their role as professors. She writes about being diligent and tolerant in trying to set new standards in the classroom:

“In my role as a professor, I was entrusted with the urgent need to confirm successful teaching (although some rewards are immediate) and acknowledge that students may not appreciate the value of a particular approach or the immediate process.”

While being aware of how gender and other forms of bias affect students’ perceptions of us, we as teachers need to be careful not to be overwhelmed by the challenges. In other clues as to how Whistling Vivaldi and stereotypes affect us, Claude Steele describes the threat that exists when we inadvertently interrupt, fearing that we may be perceived according to norms about our gender, race, or other parts of our identity. The promising side of steel research is that the ways in which people are limited by stereotype threats can be reduced.

I found it helpful to focus more on myself and my identity in the college classroom and on students and ignite their ideas. I now focus more on student discovery, finding content related to their interests and contexts and allowing them to bring their full identity into the learning environment. In Teaching to Transition, Bell Hook writes about focusing on students: “So, one of my teaching strategies is to divert their attention from my voice to the voice of others.”

These types of cultural changes take time and often lead to some resistance. Hook warns, “It is a violation to enter class settings in colleges and universities with the desire to share the excitement.” Students can get used to what Paolo Frere calls the banking model of education. The idea of ​​the professor is to “accumulate” knowledge in the minds of the students and then ask them to resume the information without serious thought. In fact, most higher education has created more practical relationships between students and professors, and much of it is by design and hook, arguing that the faculty can strengthen more mechanical ways of living together. “During my twenty years of teaching, I have seen intense feelings of incompetence in professors (regardless of their politics) when students expect to see them as whole human beings with complex lives and experiences. Of knowledge, ”she writes.

Identify what students need to learn from time to time for a more engaged classroom. When you ask a question, take the long, sometimes awkward break you need before you decide to risk looking potentially wrong or otherwise stupid. You don’t have to wait that long every time, but you do have to create a pattern by recognizing that students don’t ask questions eloquently.

Focus on proving yourself and providing opportunities for students to bring their full identity, interests, and context into the classroom. Maria Anderson, CEO and assistant professor at Coursetune, designs her classes to keep the same pattern every week. Anderson told me Recent Podcast Interviews How she uses graphs and charts to allow students to explore the most interesting topics for them. In an effort to focus more on critical thinking, Anderson encourages students to think about each graph:

  • What is a graph?
  • Are there any discrepancies on the axis? (Big jump over the years, for example)
  • What questions do you have now that you have seen this graph?
  • What bothers you about the graph?
  • What do you want to see added to the graph?

By redirecting students ’attention to discovery, we focus on learning and less to prove ourselves.

Prejudices that you understand may exist and often. However, keeping an eye on such dynamics can be counterproductive. Instead, focus on getting students to grow beyond the stereotypes they have subscribed to about others and to learn more about themselves and the world around them.

Consider keeping a folder where you store past student encouragement words. These messages can be healing balms for the time being when you are frustrated by what you are dealing with. They will also help you recognize that you are able to reach out to students and have a profound effect on their lives.

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