Friday, February 3, 2017

Year 8: Week 21 - Women In Music, The Presentation

Soon after election night, even before I had moved past the feeling of anger, I made a decision that I was going to do something. I was going to follow through with two ideas that I had as a teacher, but had held back on because of the amount of work that it would take to put these projects together. One was a President’s Day presentation (which is in the works) and a unit on women in music.

In the face of the coming 45th, I decided that I had no excuse, I had to lean in and do more to help educate my students to be the kind of citizen that would not, and could not let another American election turn out like the one I had just witnessed.

It has always been clear to me that I needed to be proactive to address issues related to women’s rights in my classroom. Sexism, and gender stereotypes are commonplace in the minds and the language of our students. Left unchecked these perspectives become words, words become micro aggressions that leave lasting damage on the self-esteem of women.

I am quick to call out moments when students make comments that imply women are less, like when a student described Anna from Frozen as being a “just a girl.” He meant to describe the fact that she did not have magical powers. I could figure this out immediately but using the phrase “just a girl,” with a derogatory tone of voice, communicated that being a girl was innately inferior. That led into a five-minute discussion of the use of feminine descriptors as derogatory terms in our cultures. Yes, this derailed our 6th grade band class but it was an essential conversation.

After two weeks of discussing gender inequity in fifth grade music, we had a presentation today featuring five women musicians. They played music for the students, talked about themselves and answered questions students had prepared. While some of them explicitly talked about being a women playing music, others reveled other facets about themselves that helped students understand the depth of these musicians as people, going beyond their gender. It was a truly wonderful presentation of diversity in music, diversity in what it means to be a women and diversity in the experiences that bring people together as human beings.

I am so proud and grateful that the 5th grade teachers and my principal supported this idea immediately and without hesitations. In some ways this presentation felt like an ordinary occurrence at my schools, which shows the extraordinary steps my school has taken to make the values of diversity and inclusion part of the fabric of our students’ lives.

This women in music presentation did not fix America, but it’s a start. Even if only one of my students is more aware of gender inequity or now has a broader image of femininity, it will have been worth all of the extra work.

I'm not done, not by a long shot.  I'm going to keep fighting fire with water, ignorance with knowledge and discrimination with diversity, one class at at time, and one student at a time.

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