A woman I admire greatly, Joyce Valenza, keynoted today on female leadership. Before her keynote she asked me and other women I admire greatly to share their experiences of what it means to be a woman in education. The following is roughly what I shared in a short video clip, I thought it only best to share it here as well but written instead of spoken.
I am the mother to 4 children all under the age of six. I am the mother to 3 daughters that will one day, hopefully, become independent leaders, not afraid to speak up or speak out. But for them to become just that, our society has to change. Our classrooms need to change. Our language needs to change.
In how many classrooms are girls expected to follow the rules better? To sit still? To listen quietly? If a girl runs around, full of energy she is “acting like a boy.” If she does it on a regular basis then something must be wrong with her. If a girl raises her voice, has high energy, then she must be having a bad day. She is labeled “wild” and “unruly.” Because that is not how girls are supposed to be. It goes against their very nature.
The same goes for boys, except only opposite. If a boy is quiet, if a boy shows emotion, then something must be wrong. If a boy does not engage in rough housing he must have a problem or be a wimp. We call our boys “sensitive” like it’s a swear word.
As educators, we must see our students as full human beings that can act in whichever way they choose, even if that means not being a “good” girl every day. As mothers, we must protect our children from the language that is sure to shape their identity so that they can be what they want to be, not just the archetype of a woman that society has bestowed upon us.
We are raising the future so I raise my girls to be independent. To be brave. To be fierce. I raise my son to be proud of his emotions and to say no when he wants to. That he does not have to fit into any gender stereotype someone else has decided for him. But most of all, I raise my children to be themselves, no matter their gender. Our classrooms, our very language, should protect that.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) just came out!