A Teacher’s Insight on Teaching Gender Equality

Three years ago, I presented Shirts and Skins: A Talk on Gender to the student body of Milton Academy, in Massachusetts. As students filed in to that morning assembly, I remember quietly panicking: I have to get this right -- so much is at stake!

Then and now, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to help girls and boys to feminism. I hope that feminism is an assumption of my classroom’s philosophy and practice. This means many things, small and large: requiring that girls and boys, women and men, have equal voice at the table and on our reading lists; ensuring that we talk and write about issues of gender; identifying my own feminism, to demystify and humanize a larger movement.  

Maybe most of all, I give my students opportunities to share their own life stories.  When we know each other more complexly -- all of us flawed, fumbling, searching, striving humans -- we are more committed, I believe, to work in service of each others’ self-actualization.

When we talk openly, when we see the limitations of blaming, when we admit the gender conversation is about girls and boys, women and men, finding success and happiness, as these terms are defined by you, not culture, we are all healthier. When we don’t talk seriously about gender issues, when we don’t really listen to each other, we don’t lead effectively; we don’t inspire change. No wonder we see this country so stuck on gender. Gender is a health issue. It is a professional issue. It is a political issue. It is a domestic and international human rights issue. It is your issue. You build the world you want to live in.

Today, seniors still find me to talk about Shirts and Skins. Its extended shelf-life feels like a small victory, a shot in my arm that quiets the panic and inspires me to go back to work: so much at stake!
Lisa Baker teaches English at Milton Academy (Massachusetts). You can read her full speech here
Tags: Teacher