Announcer:

This podcast is produced by Benchmark Education.

Kevin Carlson:

What voices and perspectives do students experience in your classroom? When you talk with them about gender, what messages do they hear? And how can you develop a more inclusive teaching practice? I'm Kevin Carlson and this is Teachers Talk Shop.

Maria Campanario:

Who is present and who is not present? And are they not present because they just never existed there? Or are they not present because someone has kept them hidden?

Kevin Carlson:

That is Maria Campanario, National Equity Consultant in Professional Development for Benchmark Education. Recently, she spoke with author and educator Patty McGee about equity and inclusivity with a focus on gender.

Patty McGee:

Today, Maria Campanario and I are going to be talking about gender and intersectional teaching. Maria, I'm so glad to be having this conversation with you. You come with such a rich background to be able to really support us all as educators in thinking about this really important topic of gender and intersectional teaching. And right now, you are the National Equity Consultant in Professional Development for Benchmark. And when we were preparing for this conversation, we had decided that the purpose of the conversation was to share with teachers strategies to employ in the classroom to build equity and inclusivity with a focus on gender. So, thanks for being with me as we talk about this.

Maria Campanario:

Well, thanks. It's always super to work with you.

Patty McGee:

I think that it would be important to start off the conversation with a definition of gender, and I found a definition from the World Health Organization. Sharing this definition helps us, the two of us, and also anyone who is joining us with this conversation to kind of ground our thinking in this definition as we then consider equity, inclusivity, and intersectional teaching.

So World Health Organization defines gender as: "Gender refers to the characteristics of women, men, girls and boys that are socially constructed. This includes norms, behaviours, and rules associated with being a woman, man, girl or boy, as well as relationships with each other. As a social construct", which I think is a really important part here, that this was constructed in, you know, for social reasons that may or may not be accurate, correct or realistic, "gender varies from society to society because it is a social construct and can change over time... Gender identity refers to a person's deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond to the person's physiology or designated sex at birth."

So as we consider that definition to broaden perhaps the way we think of the word gender, let's just start our conversation by thinking about, based on that definition, what messaging and really where does that messaging about gender come in?

Maria Campanario:

Ok, so that's a great question. We start to hear and see those messages from day one basically when we appear and are born. But when we get into school, we've already been surrounded by those messages for many years. So we're already taking it with us, the children, as well as, of course, the adults. And they begin to appear in school as we read math problems, as we study science, as we read literature, as we read history. So it surrounds us in every way through use of pronouns, through the choice of the texts that we read, the illustrators who are present in those texts, the types of words that are used to describe characters, you know. As an example, "He ran like a girl." I mean, we tend to learn that that's not the best way for a boy to run versus just saying he ran, you know, quickly or some other adjectives. So there seems to already be associations about gender and power in text as soon as students are exposed to school through the words, through the adjectives, and of course, through the societal norms which you mentioned actually create gender identity.

Patty McGee:

Yeah. Educators who are thinking about really shining a spotlight on gender and intersectional teaching, I'm just going to name out three places that they can start to look that comes from what you just shared. One, they can look at the texts that are being read or that are in the classroom library or are considered the cannon of the grade level, whatever it might be. So taking a look at those texts and considering where those messages about gender or what those messages about gender are saying, they can consider the words that are used about gender around them, might be from students, might be from adults, might be from materials that are used for teaching. And then also to take a close look at societal norms in schools because there is societal norms in the world, right? And that changes depending on what community you live in. But there are also societal norms that are in place in school. You know, there's beliefs about gender that come with, you know have been handed down from generation to generation, and they have their place sometimes just in school. And so to examine those societal norms, I think is a really important place to begin.

Maria Campanario:

Those norms sometimes affect what we do in school in terms of even policy that impact the classroom. So I can tell you, when I went to school right up through eighth grade, girls could not wear pants to school. In the freezing cold, we trudged through snow. You'd have to go to the girls’ bathroom and get out of your pants and then get into, only home ec, because back then, girls could not take shop, boys could only take shop and the gym classes were divided. And I don't like to think of myself as being particularly prehistoric, that was pretty recent history. So we see that, you know, this is around us in schools in multiple ways. That was a great summary of the text, the words, and then the societal norms. They're just…there.

Kevin Carlson:

As educators become more aware of the text, words, and societal norms that their students experience in terms of gender and intersectional teaching, what then? We'll find out after the break. Stay with us.

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Patty McGee:

As an educator, when I examine texts, words, and societal norms, I also have a role there to play, to create that equity, inclusivity, and really have the opportunity for intersectional teaching. So, you know, there's different ways that we could look at, let's just say texts. Right. We can look at the texts through a literature lens and we can look at the norms or the messaging that's being sent through the literature that we've been reading that kids have in their hands or that we are exposing kids to. We could look at representation of authors. Is there a diversity in voices of the authors? And we can also look at the historical perspective of gender. Now we offer up those three for, you know, food for thought for anyone who is listening or participating in this conversation, and we also know that that would probably take us all day to even begin to scratch the surface of digging into. So we decided to focus on just one part of what we can examine, and that is thinking about women in history. One thing I've discovered is that when I examine my understanding of women in history, it's a very whitewashed kind of history and this is where that intersectionality comes in. That we can look at gender, right, but we can also look at the other parts that intersect with gender. I think what's really cool right now is that we can maybe offer like a three-step simple process for teachers to follow that helps us expand our understanding of history when it comes to women or those who identify as women.

Maria Campanario:

Sure, sure.

Patty McGee:

For this particular topic.

Maria Campanario:

Yeah. So let's just touch for a second on, you mentioned intersectional pedagogy. So just really briefly, it's based on Kimberlé Crenshaw's work, and it just means that when you look at what you're going to be bringing to that classroom, you want to understand, is there some pattern of inequity that either comes through the text or that has disallowed this text or this history and in particular about women? And if we're talking about intersectionality, women of color, women who are older, women who make certain gender choices, right, historically. We really want to identify what were those social pieces that leads to sometimes absence of voice for particular women in particular ways. And then we really want to think of, so how do we have a discussion around these multiple forms of oppression based on these intersectional issues that may occur again if we're interacting with text and women are involved? And then how do we give privilege to those sort of quiet or left out voices that need to be elevated?

And I think that, first of all, you have to consider whose voices might be missing, right? I'm reading about, I'm just going to say archaeology. And I notice, 'Wow, a lot of guys are archaeologists, OK. Are there any women? Are there women of color? If there aren't women of color, was it recent? Was it a long time ago? Which groups are represented?' And a lot of times when we talk about students doing projects that sort of bring together different pieces of what they might be doing, I might have read a piece of nonfiction text in a text I'm using for close reading that has to do something with discovery and archaeology. And I might say, ‘Well, now for your project-based learning, I want you to find out about women and if women have done this work. And I really want you to bring their voices and write their story. And maybe you're going to publish that, and you'll put it into a little school library, and you want to really show these stories and think about why they were omitted or quieted.’

So, for example, there are women who are in archaeology, but when were they permitted to go into that field? How did they get into that field? Was it their dad that took them on digs? Was it their husband? And were they actually recognized for the work they did and what they discovered? In the case of Bertha Parker Cody, she was not. It was all about her dad or her husband and not really her work, her writing, her drawings. So you have to really search to find out about her. Or if you're really looking into the African diaspora in the United States and in slavery and you're thinking about, 'OK, why would an archaeologist be looking that up? That's pretty recent.' Well, the truth is, if we go into our backyard sometimes, depending on where you live in the country, you may find some things that are really important and tell a story. And Theresa Singleton has actually done a lot of work around the African diaspora in slavery in the United States, and she's done it through archaeology.

Patty McGee:

So it sounds like your process, as I listen to you, I want to boil down your process so we can replicate it, because it sounds like you found voices that many of us have never heard of or from, the process you went through, I think is replicable for teachers, for educators. Let's just say all educators. We don't have to be teachers for this, right? The process that you went through was first, you considered whose voices were not being represented. So you found this topic. You found, you know, we're talking history here and you considered whose voices were not represented. And then you went on a search for voices. Right? And then you intentionally share their stories. I think that's you know, when we're looking for big things in this world, sometimes it's a very simple process to follow to find those big things that we don't necessarily need something grand and complex. But a simple process that you followed can help us discover other voices to bring to our intersectional teaching. Right? So just start off with that, not being represented?

Maria Campanario:

Who's present, and who is not present, as I look at this? And are they not present because they just never existed there? Or are they not present because someone has done a secret cloaking and kept them hidden?

Patty McGee:

Right. Yeah because history is whose voices have been selected to remain, right. So I want to say I followed your process as you shared this with me as we were preparing for this. I followed your process. So I was thinking about, you know, women, women's history and again noticing that my understanding of women's history is quite whitewashed. And so I thought to myself, whose voices are not here? Whose voices am I not hearing from? And I thought, let me pick just one perspective. So I chose the Latinx perspective. Like, of course, there must be women that are taking the Latinx perspective as an activist, perhaps, that I have not heard from, heard of. And so I actively sought that out. And I found and I, correct me and my pronunciation, but Jovita Idár?

Maria Campanario:

Perfect.

Patty McGee:

OK, thank you. The Mexican American activist and journalist back in from 1885 to 1946, she was someone who exposed through her writing, through newspapers at that time, the incredible racism that was happening, that was the same as the Jim Crow era, but what was happening in Texas with Mexicans. So Mexican immigrants or descendants who were citizens of the U.S. and they were being so mistreated. So I just want to say that that was such an incredible discovery for me. And following your simple process helped me find someone new that I'm even more inspired by. And by the way, I'm just going to say her name again because I think, like, she was so incredibly strong in the face of such hatred and bigotry. Her name is Jovita Idár, that I feel like everyone needs to know her. So that's what I found when I followed your process and now I'm sharing it.

Maria Campanario:

That's great, that's great. I think that, and by the way, I did not know who she was either. So I will find out and I will begin to include her in the things that I do and talk about. And I think that that's sort of it. So those sort of points, right, Patty? What am I trying to do through the texts that are in my classroom? And what do those texts actually do? Because what you want to do and what those texts help you do, you may not be precisely aligned. So you have to sort of look through the texts and the words and sort of the society in the moment of that text and the society now. Right? And who has allowed some information or texts to filter and which ones have been stopped or consciously omitted or just never even brought to the surface. For example, Jovita Idár, who I had no idea who she was until you brought her up.

And so I think those three steps work. Consider whose voices are being represented, right. Let's acknowledge there are people that are being represented and heard here. But is it possible could there be a voice of women in this? And if so, then I want to look that up. I want to go search for those voices. And when I find them and they will be there, they will, I am going to share that. I'm going to find a way to make that actionable because in fact this piece about intersectional pedagogy means that you have to take some form of action and giving voice and creating that is an action that hopefully will help us at least lessen those patterns of inequity that for so long have quieted women and their accomplishments.

Kevin Carlson:

Some final thoughts from Patty and Maria, after the break. Stay with us.

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Patty McGee:

One little caveat to what you just said that you brought up in one of our conversations that I think is important to end on is also knowing that sometimes when we do find those voices that are underrepresented in history, when we search for those voices and we can't find any of those voices, there's a reason for that. That either one, there really was never the opportunity for those who were not privileged to be part of whatever that is in history. Or two, if they were, it's now so buried in history that we can no longer find it. And those are two points of important discussion with students that if we can't find somebody to represent another point of view within this system of oppression that we're studying, that means something big to also understand.

Maria Campanario:

Exactly. Exactly. Were they not allowed access? Were they never given the privilege?

Patty McGee:

Yeah. OK, so just to wrap up our conversation here, I just think it was such an important conversation to have. We really wanted to focus on gender and intersectional teaching. And we began with the World Health Organization definition of gender so that we can see it in a more expansive way, right. And we also named the places that messaging comes through, we named three places that the messaging around gender comes through in schools. And then we offered up one process or one kind of strategy for really bringing in voices to create that intersectional teaching opportunity of: consider whose voices are not being represented, search for those voices, and then share their stories.

Maria Campanario:

Exactly.

Kevin Carlson:

Thank you, Maria Campanario. Thank you, Patty McGee. And thank you for listening to Teachers Talk Shop.

You can learn more at our web site: TeachersTalkShop.com.

For Benchmark Education, I'm Kevin Carlson.