Rebecca Staw – Teacher

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I’ve always been very interested in feminism and gender and when I was doing my Teach First teacher training I attended a workshop on gender in the classroom, run by UK Feminista. The workshop was great and lead to some really interesting discussions, many people voicing the opinion that it should be compulsory for all trainee teachers. Unfortunately, most teachers don’t receive any training on gender at all, despite us desperately needing it!

More boys still take maths and sciences at A-Level than girls while English and humanities are more girl-dominated. Research suggest that teachers subconsciously encourage students more in subjects according to their gender, sometimes even marking them higher! However, it’s rarely a focus in schools for teachers to try and address this gap. It’s also all too easy for teachers, like everyone else, to slip into traps like using gendered language. I’ve heard “man up” and “this is a question for the boys”, particularly when discussing football, just too often!

While I know how easy it is to make these generalisations I always try and think of the girl in the class who I know loves football or the shy boy who hates sport! I know that there are lots of pupils who find the idea of what it is to be a boy/girl intimidating or just not something they feel can identify with. As teachers I think we have a real responsibility not to limit our pupils to these gender stereotypes as it can really affect their self-esteem and their future choices.

I decided to get in touch with our teacher training coordinator and see if I could run a session on this for our Teach Firsters and other trainees. Luckily, she was really on-board and I ran a session in March this year. I got in touch with UK Feminista who were really helpful in helping me plan the training. They sent me their lesson template which included some fantastic visuals on gender stereotyping. The picture of the “I’m too pretty to do my homework so my brother has to do it for me” T-Shirt still makes my blood boil every time I think about it!

The session went well and again we had some really interesting conversations about the importance of understanding our own gender biases in the classroom. I’ve heard from a few teachers since running the training that they’re now much more conscious of gender, particularly with regard to the language they use. Success! I’m hoping to run the session again this coming academic year, possibly to all staff.

Thanks to UK Feminista for your help and support!


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