Wednesday, November 11, 2009

a single gendered class - grade seven girls

okay here goes.

so today i went into a public school in hamilton to do some observations for a course i'm taking at university. there were no real requirements, but we were to look particularly for management strategies. regardless i'll just tell you how it went.

i wanted to go to a different school than ones i had visited in the past. so i heard a program on cbc radio about the possible boys academy in toronto. it led to a discussion about a school in hamilton that has single gendered classes for grades 7 & 8. at first, i was unsure of this idea. shouldn't genders be mixed as they are in the real world? since one of the goals of education is to prepare students for the future, was this really practical? but i decided to check this school out for myself before forming my opinion.

i was in the all girls grade 7 class briefly in the morning. the girls came in and the teacher said they were usually very chatty, but they didn't seem notably more chatty than other classes. they did appear comfortable though, but i have nothing to compare this against.

we've often talked about the importance of managing transition periods, as so much time can be wasted in between activities. this was apparent in the classroom. the teacher did not have a schedule of activities she wanted the class to get through though, and as she tried to quiet them down, i asked myself 'what for?' people are likely to converse unless they are instructed otherwise. its unlikely that they will sit quietly and patiently wait for directions. this was the only small improvement that could have been made during the short time i was there.

i asked the teacher if she enjoyed teaching the girls class and if she thought single gender classes were beneficial. she restated many points that i had thought about myself. it allows the teacher more freedom to cater the curriculum towards topics that interest girls. since maintaining interest is essential for learning and often times difficult, i found this to be an extremely advantageous point. she also said that girls seemed to motivate each other and weren't afraid to participate compared to her mix gendered classes. too often she's seen girls attempt to appear less smart than they really are because of their image, particularly in front of boys. another huge pro in my opinion. the only negative that came to mind was that sometimes they can spend up to 15 minutes at the starting of a class sorting out some sort of relationship (family, friends, etc.) issue as girls tend to be quite emotionally involved. sometimes they bring up issues that happened 3 years ago, as we know, girls can certainly hold a grudge.

but i didn't see this as a negative. although there is less time spent on academics, having the time to sort out such a significant portion of girls' lives with the guidance of a teacher seemed ideal to me. in my experience, many health or other short programs that try to teach students, or girls about how to deal with relationships, sex or other important topics are not very effective. no one takes them seriously because they are just thrown at the students, they aren't using their lives as examples, and no one feels comfortable to share a problem because this dynamic hasn't been fostered over time. in this class, where the teacher quickly gets to know the same class each day, the girls are sharing a part of their lives openly in front of the teacher. the teacher can now easily watch the girls sort it out and guide them through effective problem solving techniques. in grades 7 & 8, right before high school, these girls can learn extremely valuable lessons and skills from a teacher that they can certainly apply in the dramatic filled years of high school.

wow. i've written so much already. it's just what came to mind.

what was actually MORE interesting was the boys classroom. the teacher was exceptional and had a wonderful teaching philosophy and really took the time to explain to me how and why his classroom ran the way he did.

but as of right now, i need to get to yet another education class. so i suppose that's for another time.

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