After undertaking the required reading, I was immediately drawn to the Spiral Enquiry approach. For me that’s exactly what this experience has been – a non-linear journey to discover what the ‘gaps’ are, what my ‘itch’ is.
Whilst reading Action Research in Education i was struck by Schon’s view that teacher enquiry is both reflection on action and reflection in action. This notion perfectly sums up my enquiry so far, something which has arisen from reflection of the changes in my current setting and also the daily, weekly, monthly reflections on where we’re at.
I have drawn my own version of the spiral approach with my own adaptations highlighted in green, specifically:
- The tangent of exploration on which we all inevitably go – in my opinion, a necessary step in the entire process in order to ensure that you have thought out the best line of enquiry
- Refining, because that is what i have been constantly doing throughout the time i’m developing my hunch
- And reflecting at the heart of everything – because if we are not constantly reflecting, then how can we even begin to measure the success of the enquiry?
I look forward to seeing other people’s drafts and approaches and to chatting about everyone’s journey at the recall day!
” I don’t understand why you’re making us do all this stuff about boys’ jobs and girls’ jobs when we all know that it’s sexist to say that kind of stuff.”
-Primary 7 pupil during one of my “inspirational” lessons
It has become apparent during my work that there’s a huge divide amongst pupils when it comes to their awareness of gender stereotypes. The majority of children i have spoken to are well aware that statements such as ‘football is just for boys’ are harmful and damaging; some are even bored when we discuss this topic, as if i’m explaining the obvious.
A minority of the school population have perceptions of certain activities, attributes and personality traits as being masculine or feminine. I suspect that a lot of these are influenced by factors such as parental opinion, advertising or social media.
What i’d like to focus on are the ways we as a school divide activities and routines by gender, why we do this, and how we can make changes to these expectations. Moreover, i’d like to find a way to measure how this impacts pupils’ wellbeing.
Draft question: What happens when a school explores its approaches to gender?
This quote from Atwood’s The Testaments really resonated with me. It’s true that the perception of gender and sexuality is changing. But until there is a conscious effort to address the imbalance, the present will continue to rhyme with the past. Over the past month I have explored this area with the incredibly helpful recommendations from those of you commenting on my previous blog post.
Of particular use was Improving Gender Balance and Equalities 3-18, a vast resource on the National Improvement Hub. An Action Guide for Primary Schools provided information about unconscious bias and how it can affect our interactions with children, noting that ‘everyone has biases as a result of years of exposure to gendered patterns’. After taking the Harvard Implicit Association test I realised that, despite considering myself to be unbiased and aware of the negative impact of gender stereotypes, I did in fact associate certain personality traits, careers and emotional responses to specific genders. This has only made me more determined to explore ways in which I can bring about positive change in my practice and in the wider school community to improve experiences and remove barriers for our learners. The document had fantastic ideas for tackling stereotypes and monitoring sexist language, and in fact the entire online resource provided me with so many ideas that I didn’t even have to research any other literature about gender in education – although I’m sure I have only skimmed the surface.
However, the subject of LGBT inclusion in Primary Schools proved trickier to research. LGBT Youth Scotland have an incredible range of resources and have always been incredibly helpful over the phone (and they will continue to support the school as we work toward our LGBT Schools Charter Award). Supporting Gender and Sexual Diversity in School: Teachers’ Perspectives, Challenges and Possibilities notes that any work done around addressing gender imbalance or discrimination based on sexuality has to be undertaken by a task force (e.g. teachers, students and parents) and needs to provide students with the tools to understand and challenge gender norms.
With all of this in mind, I think the focus of my enquiry will be addressing gender expectations and stereotypes in a primary setting. Not only does there seem to be a wealth of research to support me on my journey, but it seems a necessary foundation to any work on building LGBT inclusion.
Links to resources related to this post:
LGBT Youth Scotland Website
Education Scotland – Improving Gender Balance and Equalities
Harvard Implicit Association Test
Supporting Gender and Sexual Diversity in Schools
Stonewall Guide to Tackling Homophobic Language
Just Like a Child Document
“The skill I was learning was a crucial one, the patience to read things I could not yet understand.”
Tara Westover, Educated
Last week I finished reading the book Educated by Tara Westover. It’s a totally fascinating example of what can happen when an individual isn’t exposed to ‘formal’ education and really got me thinking about our role as teachers. Yes, we exhaust ourselves looking for strategies to ‘close the attainment gap’, to get our reluctant readers devouring a novel, to help our most stubborn pupils see the point in learning how to calculate a percentage of a number.
Yet a core part of our job is preparing young people to go out into society as an embodiment of the four capacities. We’re preparing them to understand a world that is rapidly changing and I would imagine that this preparation can look very different depending on the context of the community that we’re working in. I can identify many situations over the past year when I’ve realised that I’m slightly out of touch with the issues facing young people today.
With that in mind, my possible lines of enquiry are:
- How do primary schools create an LGBT inclusive environment?
- What happens when schools begin to examine the role of gender in education?
- In what ways can primary schools educate pupils on issues faced by the LGBT community?
I know that many high schools are doing wonderful work around LGBT awareness. I’ve yet to find many examples of how Scottish primary schools are doing the same kind of work, which makes me keen to use this as my area of focus. I’ll be leading the school in working toward achieving our LGBT Schools Charter Award so I’ll have something to structure my enquiry around.
If you know of any primary schools doing work in this area, please let me know in the comments section.
Here are some links to material that I found useful:
Educated, by Tara Westover
Interesting article from The Guardian about gender in schools
BBC Panorama episode about the LGBT debate in English schools
And finally, this tweet from comedian Joe Lycett that always makes me chuckle
I’m Louise Ret and I’m a Primary Teacher based in Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ve been teaching for six years, the last five of them being at Gylemuir Primary, and for the past year I’ve been on secondment as Acting Principal Teacher at Gylemuir. My job is really diverse and ensures I’m always enquiring, questioning and thinking creatively to improve my practice. For 2019/2020 i’ll be continuing as Acting PT with a remit for Equalities, which encompasses EAL, 1 in 5, ACEs, LGBT and SfL.
Other fun stuff about me: I love reading, I run, I play netball, and I lived in Australia for four years. I also worked in a school in New Zealand for a year prior to going to university. Living abroad has really shaped who I am as a person and that has integrated itself into my practice – i’m always intrigued by different cultures, languages and perspectives and I want children to value their heritage and have a strong sense of cultural identity, whatever that may be.