Can a teacher play a role in fighting against domestic and family violence? They absolutely can.
When I send groups of kids off to their desks to start work, I regularly choose “ladies before gentleman”. This often sparks outrage amongst the boys but is something I will not change, as it sends a strong message to boys that chivalry matters.
If a girl comes into class after a play break and tells me that she’s been hit by a boy, you bet I’ll treat that situation differently than if it was a boy reporting the same altercation.
When I hear that boys had thought it was funny to stick their heads into the girl’s toilets or to tell a girl she’s too skinny or too fat, I’ll stop what I’m doing and jump on that quick smart. English and maths lessons will never take priority over lessons about girl’s rights and the treating of girls with respect.
If I hear talk of little girls excluding other little girls, I show my class how to be upstanders and not bystanders. I call them a team, treat them as a united group, encourage them to consider one another family. So that no one child, girl or boy, will ever feel alone.
If I hear a little girl speaking ill of their body, I remind them of what amazing things their body can do. https://ateacherislikeacandle.wordpress.com/2020/08/19/what-girls-think-boys-want/
I tell girls that they can grow up to be scientists, astronauts, engineers. I tell boys that they can be stay-at-home Dads, they can be teachers, they can be nurses. I read books to them that challenge gender stereotypes and discuss them in Philosophy.
When I’m looking for strong kids to carry heavy things, I don’t just choose boys. When I’m looking for someone to take care of a child who just got hurt, I don’t always choose girls.
I share personal anecdotes about how my husband cooks all of our meals. About how he opens the car door for me and tells me every day that I’m beautiful. About how we don’t have our own kids, and that’s ok.
I give boys and girls the words to use to define and express their emotions. Strategies to deal with big feelings that don’t involve them lashing out at others.
I let boys cry and be vulnerable and quickly squash any taunts from the others about “crying like a girl/running like a girl/hitting lie a girl”.
I model positive self-talk, I stand tall, I love myself sick.
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