Tag Archives: teachers

10 Words Every Girl Should Learn

10 Words Every Girl Should Learn

“This article updated from original, which appeared in Role Reboot.

“Stop interrupting me.” 

“I just said that.”

“No explanation needed.”

In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My brother, on the other hand, was considered the class comedian. We were very typically socialized as a “young lady” and a “boy being a boy.” Globally, childhood politeness lessons are gender asymmetrical. We socialize girls to take turns, listen more carefully, not curse and resist interrupting in ways we do not expect boys to. Put another way, we generally teach girls subservient habits and boys to exercise dominance.

I routinely find myself in mixed-gender environments (life) where men interrupt me. Now that I’ve decided to try and keep track, just out of curiosity, it’s quite amazing how often it happens. It’s particularly pronounced when other men are around.

This irksome reality goes along with another — men who make no eye contact. For example, a waiter who only directs information and questions to men at a table, or the man last week who simply pretended I wasn’t part of a circle of five people (I was the only woman). We’d never met before and barely exchanged 10 words, so it couldn’t have been my not-so-shrinking-violet opinions.

These two ways of establishing dominance in conversation, frequently based on gender, go hand-in-hand with this last one: A woman, speaking clearly and out loud, can say something that no one appears to hear, only to have a man repeat it minutes, maybe seconds later, to accolades and group discussion.

After I wrote about the gender confidence gap recently, of the 10 items on a list, the one that resonated the most was the issue of whose speech is considered important. In sympathetic response to what I wrote, a person on Twitter sent me a cartoon in which one woman and five men sit around a conference table. The caption reads, “That’s an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.” I don’t think there is a woman alive who has not had this happen.

The cartoon may seem funny, until you realize exactly how often it seriously happens. And — as in the cases of Elizabeth Warren or say, Brooksley Born — how broadly consequential the impact can be. When you add race and class to the equation the incidence of this marginalization is even higher.

This suppressing of women’s voices, in case you are trying to figure out what Miss Triggs was wearing or drinking or might have said to provoke this response, is what sexism sounds like.

These behaviors, the interrupting and the over-talking, also happen as the result of difference in status, but gender rules. For example, male doctors invariably interrupt patients when they speak, especially female patients, but patients rarely interrupt doctors in return. Unless the doctor is a woman. When that is the case, she interrupts far less and is herself interrupted more. This is also true of senior managers in the workplace. Male bosses are not frequently talked over or stopped by those working for them, especially if they are women; however, female bosses are routinely interrupted by their male subordinates.

This preference for what men have to say, supported by men and women both, is a variant on “mansplaining.” The word came out of an article by writer Rebecca Solnit, who explained that the tendency some men have to grant their own speech greater import than a perfectly competent woman’s is not a universal male trait, but the “intersection between overconfidence and cluelessness where some portion of that gender gets stuck.”

Solnit’s tipping point experience really did take the cake. She was talking to a man at a cocktail party when he asked her what she did. She replied that she wrote books and she described her most recent one, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild WestThe man interrupted her soon after she said the word Muybridge and asked, “And have you heard about the very important Muybridge book that came out this year?” He then waxed on, based on his reading of a review of the book, not even the book itself, until finally, a friend said, “That’s her book.” He ignored that friend (also a woman) and she had to say it more than three times before “he went ashen” and walked away. If you are not a woman, ask any woman you know what this is like, because it is not fun and happens to all of us.

In the wake of Larry Summers’ “women can’t do math” controversy several years ago, scientist Ben Barres wrote publicly about his experiences, first as a woman and later in life, as a male. As a female student at MIT, Barbara Barres was told by a professor after solving a particularly difficult math problem, “Your boyfriend must have solved it for you.” Several years after, as Ben Barres, he gave a well-received scientific speech and he overhead a member of the audience say, “His work is much better than his sister’s.”

Most notably, he concluded that one of the major benefits of being male was that he could now “even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man.”

I’ve had teenage boys, irritatingly but hysterically, excuse what they think is “lack of understanding” to [my] “youthful indiscretion.” Last week as I sat in a cafe, a man in his 60′s stopped to ask me what I was writing. I told him I was writing a book about gender and media and he said, “I went to a conference where someone talked about that a few years ago. I read a paper about it a few years ago. Did you know that car manufacturers use slightly denigrating images of women to sell cars? I’d be happy to help you.” After I suggested, smiling cheerily, that the images were beyond denigrating and definitively injurious to women’s dignity, free speech and parity in culture, he drifted off.

It’s not hard to fathom why so many men tend to assume they are great and that what they have to say is more legitimate. It starts in childhood and never ends. Parents interrupt girls twice as often and hold them to stricter politeness norms. Teachers engage boys, who correctly see disruptive speech as a marker of dominant masculinity, more often and more dynamically than girls.

As adults, women’s speech is granted less authority and credibility. We aren’t thought of as able critics or as funny. Men speak moremore often, and longer than women in mixed groups (classroomsboardroomslegislative bodiesexpert media commentary and, for obvious reasons religious institutions.) Indeed, in male-dominated problem solving groups including boards, committees and legislatures, men speak 75% more than women, with negative effects on decisions reached. That’s why, as researchers summed up, “Having a seat at the table is not the same as having a voice.”

Even in movies and television, male actors engage in more disruptive speech and garner twice as much speaking and screen time as their female peers. This is by no means limited by history or to old media but is replicated online. Listserve topics introduced by men have a much higher rate of response and on Twitter, people retweet men two times as often as women.

These linguistic patterns are consequential in many ways, not the least of which is the way that they result in unjust courtroom dynamics, where adversarial speech governs proceedings and gendered expression results in women’s testimonies being interrupted, discounted and portrayed as not credible according to masculinized speech norms. Courtrooms also show exactly how credibility and status, women’s being lower, are also doubly affected by race. If Black women testifying in courtadopt what is often categorized as “[white] women’s language,” they are considered less credible. However, if they are more assertive, white jurors find them “rude, hostile, out of control, and, hence [again], less credible.” Silence might be an approach taken by women to adapt to the double bind, but silence doesn’t help when you’re testifying.

The best part though is that we are socialized to think women talk more. Listener bias results in most people thinking that women are hogging the floor when men are actually dominating. Linguists have concluded that much of what is popularly understood about women and men being from different planets, verbally, confuses “women’s language” with “powerless language.”

There are, of course, exceptions that illustrate the role that gender (and not biological sex) plays. For example, I have a very funny child who regularly engages in simultaneous speech, disruptively interrupts and randomly changes topics. If you read a script of a one of our typical conversations, you would probably guess the child is a boy based on the fact that these speech habits are what we think of as “masculine.” The child is a girl, however. She’s more comfortable with overt displays of assertiveness and confidence than the average girl speaker. It’s hard to balance making sure she keeps her confidence with teaching her to be polite. However, excessive politeness norms for girls, expected to set an example for boys, have real impact on women who are, as we constantly hear, supposed to override their childhood socialization and learn to talk like men to succeed (learn to negotiate, demand higher pay, etc.).

The first time I ran this post, I kid you not, the first response I got was from a Twitter user, a man, who, without a shred of self-awareness, asked, “What would you say if a man said those things to you mid-conversation?”

Socialized male speech dominance is a significant issue, not just in school, but everywhere. If you doubt me, sit quietly and keep track of speech dynamics at your own dinner table, workplace, classroom. In the school bus, the sidelines of fields, in places of worship. It’s significant and consequential.

People often ask me what to teach girls or what they themselves can do to challenge sexism when they see it. “What can I do if I encounter sexism? It’s hard to say anything, especially at school.” In general, I’m loathe to take the approach that girls should be responsible for the world’s responses to them, but I say to them, practice these words, every day:

“Stop interrupting me,” 

“I just said that,” and 

“No explanation needed.”

It will do both boys and girls a world of good. And no small number of adults, as well.”

 

I experience this every single day which is why, when I participate in online comment boards, I use the user name “CJones” so that no one knows whether I’m male or female.

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Filed under Spotlights

Why Kids Care More About Achievement Than Helping Others

“…While 96 percent of parents say they want to raise ethical, caring children, and cite the development of moral character as “very important, if not essential,” 80 percent of the youths surveyed reported that their parents “are more concerned about achievement or happiness than caring for others.” Approximately the same percentage reported that their teachers prioritize student achievement over caring…

Child psychologist and author Michele Borba told me the study was “incredibly important,” a “wake up call to parents, a clear indication that we need to reprioritize our parenting agendas ASAP. The science reveals the irony of the situation: happier and more successful kids care about others, they are able to relate, be concerned, and respect differences, and a lack of empathy makes kids less successful, and less happy.” Her email went on to explain,

Studies show that kids’ ability to feel for others affects their health,wealth and authentic happiness as well as their emotional, social, cognitive development and performance. Empathy activates conscience and moral reasoning, improves happiness, curbs bullying and aggression, enhances kindness and peer inclusiveness, reduces prejudice and racism, promotes heroism and moral courage and boosts relationship satisfaction. Empathy is a key ingredient of resilience, the foundation to trust, the benchmark of humanity, and core to everything that makes a society civilized….”

(my bolds)

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June 25, 2014 · 7:51 pm

Is Anybody Listening to Teachers?

I recently heard that 15 years ago (I don’t know if it still holds true today) Starbucks required all employees to spend a week serving coffee as a barista in its stores. Why don’t more companies/institutions do this? When you’re making policy decisions that effect the company, you need to be educated on how those policies will effect those on the ground level (i.e. those in the classroom).

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June 11, 2014 · 7:08 pm

Unions cry foul after California teacher tenure rules struck down

It’s unfortunate that many great teachers are now denied tenure in California, but the tenure laws should not be used to protect bad teachers either. However, the rating system for “good” and “bad” teachers is severely flawed. Using test scores to rank teachers’ effectiveness is a highly skewed way to look at the success of our educational institutions. More often than not, the tests are biased toward white, male, upper-class children. We not only need to find a way to protect “good” teachers, but we also need to find a better way of ranking said teachers. Case in point: New College of Florida’s recent “bad” score on the Florida Board of Directors University Score Card.

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June 11, 2014 · 6:48 pm

How I Became an Unfair Teacher

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou

I was invited to my first high school reunion this past December and I also recently received my first request for donations from the school’s alumni association (as if I have the money for that, ha!). These two events started the process in my head of sloughing through my massive memory bank of those years in my life, and I’ve come up with two conclusions so far: it was awesome, but it also sucked beyond belief. While I had a great social life, was involved in activities that continue to hold my interest to this day, and had some truly inspiring teachers along the way, I also had my fair share of rotten experiences.

I was always an advocate against ageism from a very early age, even before I knew what it was. My parents raised me more or less as an adult: I was allowed to drink alcohol at family dinners, I was socialized early on with “adults” and could hold my own in “grown-up” conversations, I was allowed to fashion myself with clothes and crazy hair colors, and my parents backed me up whenever I got in “trouble” at school. This “trouble” was often a result of my rebellions against the established pecking order of “teachers/administrators know best.”

This tendency to resist authority figures usually ended in two ways:

1. They would give up and let me do what I want (which resulted in stuff like “science fair” projects on which brand of nail polish was more durable and how different heights of high heels affected walking rates)

Or,
2. They would cite an arbitrary rule that I was violating and punish me (one memorable instance being a ban in 6th grade on wearing costumes to school on Halloween day; instead of wearing “costumes,” my friend and I dressed up as Goths (a valid fashion trend at the time) and were promptly assigned pumpkin-carving duty for the 3rd graders and banned from attending the “Fall Dance” (we continued to protest by dressing as Goths at school for the next two weeks))

I continued this push against authority figures throughout my high school career and thus many of my memories from that time are about how these teachers and administrators made me feel. In one instance, I remember arguing with my 7th grade science teacher about whether clockwise is left to right and counterclockwise is right to left, or whether it depended on where you start. I argued that if you start at the bottom of a clock and go in a clockwise direction, you are going right to left. But if you start at the top of a clock and go in a clockwise direction, you go left to right. He refused to accept what I said as valid and continued on with his lesson. I remember feeling irate and disrespected, to the point of having to scream into my sweatshirt to release the anger.

A more psychologically damaging instance involved my P.E. teacher in 10th grade. I remember him being a retired military general or something of the sort, and, as a P.E. teacher, he continued his relationship with the military by offering community service hours to military personnel in exchange for helping with his classes for a day. So one day, we arrive for P.E. and he tells us that we will be playing a game with active military members for our daily activity. Now, at this point in time, I was an active member of a school club called S.A.W. (Students Against War). We were in the middle of the Iraq War and I had been developing an increasing distaste for all things military. So, to make a point, I calmly told the teacher that I would not be participating in the activity that involved the military personnel. He sneered at me and walked away. When the class had gotten to the field, I walked over to the side and sat down.

I saw the P.E. teacher say something to the military personnel and point over to me, and within minutes one of them walked over to me to ask why I was not participating. I told her that I did not believe in the military (probably a bad choice of words on my part) and she immediately launched into a yelled (yes, yelled) lecture about how the military is not make-believe and that there are people (her friends!) who are dying out there. I told her that, yes, I understood that the military was not make-believe and that I simply had no desire to participate with them in the activity. She continued to scream at me for another five minutes, during which the group of students that had followed my protest and sat on the edge of the field with me decided that it wasn’t worth the fight and went to participate in the activity.

At some point, the screaming turned into a lecture about physical activity. She was accusing me of being against physical activity and P.E. in general when my teacher walked over and joined her in the verbal assault. They both continued to yell at me even after I offered to take part in another P.E. class for the day that didn’t involved military personnel. I just sat there, stunned by the sheer amount of volume and vitrol that was being thrown my way. Eventually they realized that they weren’t getting anywhere and granted my request to join a different P.E. class. So I walked over to another teacher, asked if I could join their class, and played baseball for the rest of the period.

That day after school, I went home and told my parents the entire story and they offered their support if/when I decided to take action. I tried to get various teachers to help back my complaint to the principal, but none offered assistance and the issue eventually faded into the background of my memories.

Another example that had lasting effects on both myself and my friendships at the time was my 12th grade English teacher. Her and I had had numerous arguments and tensions throughout the year, all stemming from the fact that she refused to take my opposing opinions as valid. My opinions were often creatively “outside the box,” such as a statement I made once about chemistry being an art. I had argued that the mixing of chemicals could be considered just as artful as the mixing of paint or words. She laughed at me.

The most notable example of her blatant disrespect, however, happened toward the end of the year, when we were both ready to get out of each others’ hair. We had been studying the book Hamlet, which was a personal favorite of hers (I wouldn’t be surprised to learn she wrote her dissertation on it or something). The assignment that she had given us was to write a psychological evaluation of the character Hamlet, as revealed in his four soliloquies. She expressly instructed us to forget the rest of the play and just focus on the soliloquies. So I sat down one night and wrote out an evaluation in the voice of a stuck-up psychologist who insisted that “Sir Hamlet” was stuck in adolescence.

When we got to class, she instructed us to group into fours and read each others’ papers. We were then to choose the best one from the group and then read it to the class. My group chose my paper and, while I was reading it out loud, the teacher happened to be behind me. As I read, I kept noticing expressions of pain, disbelief, and confusion running over the faces of the others in my group so by the time I was done I knew I was in for something.

She immediately launched into an attack of my paper; first citing the use of “Sir Hamlet” and then the use of “adolescent.” I hadn’t known this at the time, but “Sir” could only be used by someone who is socially above the person they are calling sir. Hence, Sir Hamlet was inappropriate because a psychologist would not be socially above a prince. My response was that the psychologist was haughty and considered himself above Hamlet, which she laughed at and disregarded.

The use of “adolescent” was a much bigger issue. My paper implied that Hamlet was still an adolescent in age, since I had not clarified that his actions and mindset were adolescent. She basically told me that I was wrong, that the play lists Hamlet’s age, and implied that I hadn’t read the play at all. I left class more irate than I’d ever been at school and launched into a tirade once I met my friends for lunch.

It turns out the play did in fact list Hamlet’s age in a monologue near the end of the play, which I only found out after screaming at my best friend who knew her Shakespeare well (that years-long relationship unfortunately ended soon after that episode). I then realized, however, that Hamlet’s age was not mentioned in the four soliloquies that the teacher had expressly instructed us to use exclusively when writing our papers.

I went to talk to her a few days later during lunch and said, “you instructed us to only use the four soliloquies, yes?” And she said, yes, she did. But the fact that Hamlet’s age was never mentioned in the soliloquies and thus we could arguably apply artistic license when extrapolating for the paper did not faze her. She simply interrupted me and said, “you may leave now.”

I later learned from a friend that she was using my paper as an example to other classes of an ignorant student who hadn’t read the play and thinks that Hamlet is an adolescent in age. She threatened that she had a way to check the paper against internet databases for plagiarism. In other words, she didn’t accuse me of plagiarism to my face but instead used my paper as an example of plagiarism to other students.

I told my parents the story and again they offered their support, my dad having actually witnessed me writing the paper itself. So I went to my school guidance counselor the next day and told her what I knew. She said there wasn’t much we could do until the teacher formally accused me of plagiarism. So we waited.

Nothing happened and the day came when she passed back the graded papers to the class. The moment came when she laid the paper face down on my desk and I held my breath as I turned it over. “98” is all it said. A red-inked 98 at the top of my paper. No grammar corrections, no spelling mistakes, no suggestions for further edits. Just a big, red 98.

I was stunned. I couldn’t decide whether to be happy or upset. I mean, hey! A 98! But had I earned it? Was my paper worthy of that grade? I don’t think it was. What kind of weird, twisted, psychological punishment was this??

I was encouraged by friends to just accept it and move on, they even implied that I was ridiculous to keep picking fights with her in the first place. I did move on and graduate and all that, but the psychological impressions exist to this day. I’ve returned to those memories every now and then over the years, and I’ve been tempted to write to the teachers who had damaging effects on my psyche to let them know that it wasn’t just “teenage hormones” that drove me to rebel. And that my opposing thoughts and opinions during that time period deserved the same amount of respect and attention as their ideas and teachings. But would it be worth it?

Would they actually listen to what I say now when they didn’t listen then? Does a handful of years in the “real world” validate my opinions and thoughts in their eyes? I doubt it.

Ageism still plagues me to this day, although I now have a less explosive and irate response to it. I experience it in stores, in bars, in the work place, and elsewhere. It occurs especially in the work place and in particular when I am applying for jobs. For instance, every time I work my part-time job in a gift shop, the volunteers and other workers always assume that I’m a volunteer. They often don’t heed my instructions for various tasks until after they realize that I’m a paid employee.

I’m glad that the above article comes from the perspective of a teacher. They often don’t realize how much of a profound, long-lasting difference their words and actions can have on a student’s life. Because of teachers I now hate the play Hamlet, and am wary of gym teachers and military personnel. But I also love art, history, and Brahms. How did teachers affect your life?

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June 2, 2014 · 9:38 pm

Humana Festival College Days

March 22-24, 2013

PACKAGES ON SALE NOW!

College Days weekend is a three-day immersion into the world-renowned Humana Festival of New American Plays. College students and faculty are invited to explore the Festival and connect with people at the forefront of the field.

College Days attendees:

  • See astonishing world premiere plays
  • Participate in career development workshops
  • Meet Actors Theatre staff and Humana Festival creative teams
  • Audition for Acting Apprentice Company
  • Interview for Professional Internships
  • Rub elbows with the best in the field!

PACKAGES ON SALE NOW!
Only $125 per package.  Groups of 11 or more receive a FREE package valued at $125.
College Days packages include tickets to four productions, workshop participation, networking events and an opportunity to auditon for Actors Theatre’s Apprentice Company or interview for professional internships.
Contact Sarah Peters at 502-585-1210 or SPeters@ActorsTheatre.org for details.

To view the full College Days schedule, click here! 

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January 22, 2013 · 4:26 pm

“Books are the quietest…”

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January 8, 2013 · 2:43 pm