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5 Efforts Toward Creating a More Feminist Classroom

  • JWB Post
  •  November 4, 2015

 

If you’re a feminist and you want some ideas on how create a more feminist classroom, here are five efforts that you can endeavor:

1. Recognize and Analyze Power Dynamics

You don’t have to be the lecturer at the head of the classroom in order for them to learn. Let your students make their own discoveries, and validate the feelings that they have about them. Give them opportunities to work through their thoughts and synthesize their learning. This creates an environment where you are not in control, thereby giving your students more power. Let your students have a voice – and listen to them. They can teach you just as much (if not more) than you can teach them.

2. Treat Everyone with Respect

Sometimes, as teachers, we get this sense that we’re supposed to be perfect, that we’re supposed to have all the answers. But that’s silly. Displaying humility can go a long way in showing your students that it’s okay to make a mistake, so long as you handle it gracefully and appropriately. You can even use your values around respect to dictate who and how you punish.

But, before you make an argument that you can’t take time out of your day to do anything that doesn’t adhere directly to a state-mandated standard, let alone actively build a better classroom environment in this way, take another look at your standards. Often, there are standards that deal with class discussions, communicating effective arguments, and expressing beliefs. Mutual respect is something that students appreciate. Practice it.

3. Make Sure Marginalized Voices Are Represented

Essentially, what that means is that educators are starting to recognize that what’s important for our students is that they learn skills, regardless of where they come from. It means that educators have more freedom to choose texts and materials that they think will work for their students, rather than adhering to strict guidelines created from bygone education standards.

Use this liberty to represent more marginalized voices! You can do this easily just by bringing in new material to supplement those that don’t offer a variety of perspectives.

4. Encourage Students to Analyze New Perspectives

One way that you can do this is by introducing media literacy into your classroom. Because as much as we don’t talk about it in this sense, media literacy also applies to curricula and texts. You can do lens readings and critical analysis in all subjects  not just English! – from history to science.

You can even do it casually. If, for instance, in an “Agree/Disagree” game, the entire class shuffles to one end of the room, talk about why maybe a person would disagree with that statement. Challenge students to come up with reasons why a person might disagree with them. Students will rise to the expectations that you set for them – so set them high! You might find yourself surprised at how much they can accomplish and how deeply they can think.

5. Lead by Example

Instead of shirking off the responsibility, like many celebrities do, with a statement like “Well, I don’t want to be a role model,” embrace it and use it to the advantage of your students. Because the truth of the matter is this: Adult figures matter in students’ lives. And they spend most of the day with you and your colleagues. So make your very existence a learning experience. That doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect. Quite the opposite, actually. Be human. Make mistakes. Get called out. Apologize.

A feminist classroom is simply a place where our values concerning equality, respect, and representation are apparent. And when we put forth effort to create a healthy environment like that, we cultivate feminism.

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