Gender continues to negatively affect the teaching profession. Each day men and women are being subjected to society’s predetermined beliefs about how a teacher should look, act, and even how they teach. These limitations that we set for one another start as soon as we begin to walk and talk.
In “The Gender Spectrum”, Carrie Kilman brings into light that when we first see someone, we automatically think, “boy or girl?” These gender cues help us determine if we perceive someone as a boy or a girl firstly depending on their gender expression, and then we start looking for anatomical cues. Kilman includes that there are two very important and very common gender myths. The first gender myth being that gender is binary. This suggests that a person is either male or female and that there is no in between. This myth has been proven false time and time again as people continue to classify themselves as being something other than just male or female. It is relevant to point out that there are many binary gender expectations within schools. There are boy/girl lines, seating charts, bathrooms, dress codes, etc. The second myth states that gender equals sex. Gender and sex are not the same thing and these terms are commonly used interchangeably. Gender can be defined as “how you feel”. Children develop a sense of gender identity as young as 2-3 years of age. Sex is defined through ones’ anatomy. When birth sex and gender identity match, it is defined as cisgender.
When taking a look at these myths under the perspective of a teacher, we have to be self-aware of our own gender expectations. We have to be actively aware about the fact that one day, a child who doesn’t exactly know who they are yet can walk through the doors of our classroom. “Boys get to be like this. Anyone can be like this. Don’t limit me to what you think boys are.” (Kilman, 2013) From grades K-12, 78% of gender-diverse students are harassed, 35% are physically assaulted, 12% sexually assaulted, and 6% are expelled. As teachers, we need to make sure that we are not adding to these percentages. “We have a cultural lag, and teachers are catching up. It’s okay to say, ‘I just need to stop and figure this out’. Just remember, this isn’t about your values. It’s about your legal and moral obligation to support every child as the best teacher you can be.” (Kilman, 2013.)
Aside from gender-diverse children, teachers are still receiving shame because of gender. During the colonial era, European society was heavily patriarchal. Women weren’t allowed the same rights that men had and were expected to be domestic housewives. Under close observation, we can see that even in the Declaration of Independence, it is written that all “men” are created equal. Women’s rights weren’t mentioned or fought for for decades to come. Most women were uneducated, couldn’t own property, had few rights, and were subservient to men. During the 1800’s, the teaching profession was ruled by men. Dana Goldstein (2014) in chapter one of “The Teacher Wars” capitalizes on the fact that teaching was later feminized because people realized that women could be paid less than men. It wasn’t until women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton started stirring things up that change was in closer sight. Susan B. Anthony found liberation in teaching and taught for 15 years before becoming active in temperance. She lost a potential administrative position to an 18 year old male. This made her realize that it wasn’t lost potential that stopped her from moving up, it was because of her gender and hitting the glass ceiling. She left the teaching profession and demanded equal pay and women’s rights. In 1872, Anthony was tried for voting in the presidential election illegally. The trial held an all-male jury and Anthony was not allowed to speak in her defense. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, organizer of the 1st women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, teamed up with Anthony and the two become women’s rights activists.
The teaching profession is now dominated by women, but things have not changed much since the 1800’s. Women are still getting paid less than men and 75% of women are underpaid. The 4 virtues, as explained by Dr. Krutka, are some of the reasons why women are considered “better” teachers than men. The virtues go as follows: piety, purity, submission, and domesticity. Piety had to do with the fact that women were supposed to be more religious to men. Purity meant purity in the heart, mind and spirit. Submission means the same thing now as it did 2 centuries ago. Women are supposed to submit to their husbands. Women are also expected to be domestic. They are to stay at home and cook, clean, and sew. They weren’t supposed to be smart because they didn’t need to be to fulfill those duties.
Today, teaching is considered a women’s profession because to some, it still makes sense that women should be getting paid less than men on the dollar. I now see men going through the stereotypes of what women continue to go through. Men are being told that teaching is a woman’s profession because it doesn’t yield enough money to support a family. Even though men get paid more to teach than most women, men are expected to be the breadwinners of the family and that isn’t achievable through teaching. Men tend to hold the administrating positions, making it harder for women to surpass the glass ceiling to achieve that higher level of success. Men are also discouraged from teaching elementary students, and tend to teach 6-12th grades because they do not possess the “motherly” characteristics that is said to be needed when teaching younger children. This brings up the fact that some think that women make good teachers because they are motherly no so because they are smart. In the future, I hope to see more of what Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton stood for arise in the teaching profession. I would like to see the teaching paradox be eliminated from today’s teaching profession.
Education to the Masses – US History Scene. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2016, from http://ushistoryscene.com/article/rise-of-public-education/
Goldstein, D. (2014). The Teacher Wars: A history of America’s most embattled profession. New York: Doubleday.
Kilman, C. (2013). The gender spectrum. Teaching Tolerance (44). Retrieved from http://www.tolerance.org/gender-spectrum