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Teacher Expectations and Talking about Gender

There are no magic wands. Nothing will get tied up in a beautiful bow. It will be imperfect work. Just like anything we attempt to teach our students.

Jennifer Gonzalez, in her podcast and website Cult of Pedagogy interviews David Watkins, the Director of Equity and Diversity for the Broward County School District in Florida and Glenn Singleton, the author of Courageous Conversations about Race. They are both doing the difficult and back breaking and inspiring work of transforming a school district’s approach to race and fairness by doing highly immersive, long term and strategic training of educators.

I wanted to highlight a few points made by Singleton which cross over into the important work of gender and education and working with our educators.

  • He points out the irony that educators are used to taking the long view with the work and development of skills, knowledge and thinking with their students, but when it comes to discussions about such highly sensitive issues regarding race, we want a magic pill, we want it clean, we want it not to be messy or even very difficult.

  • Singleton pivots our thinking about this work from the desire to be right to needing to be effective (as my uncle used to tell me, being right and $2.75 will get you on the New York City Subway). Being right is often not nearly enough.

  • And finally, the work can be so challenging because we must all contend with the discomfort of confronting a value system based on a social construction, which is designed to give one group of people power and authority over others. In other words, differences of race are a type of fairytale, a mirage, a made-up reality that literally infects our minds and ways of being in the world. These assumptions are hard to shake and to break free from.

There are no magic wands. Nothing will get tied up in a beautiful bow. It will be imperfect work. Just like anything we attempt to teach our students.

Gender and the biases we encounter every day are no different than the vital issues around race and in fact may be more insidious. Why? Gender is the fundamental social construct we have been contending with as a global human community since the beginning of time. Some may argue that this has something to do with the political, but the exact opposite is true. The political is constructed from the way we perceive each other and our relationship to one another. This reality, again, makes the work of recognizing issues regarding gender as challenging and certainly an often unrecognized way we conceptualize and execute the work of schools. The difficult work begins with awareness, no place else.

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Jason is flexible and attentive, yet remains committed to his high expectations of my work in tackling tough situations and tasks.  With a sense of humor and compassion for the rigor of a leadership position, he knows how to guide me with just the right amount of productive stress.  I appreciate that.

Daphne Orenshein - Elementary School Principal: Hillel Hebrew Academy

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