Future teachers in B.C. should be required to take a course on gender in the classroom, according to Allyson Jule.
The professor of education at Trinity Western University in Langley has conducted research on elementary-school and college classes and found teachers tend to “unwittingly” prompt boys to speak more than girls.
“It doesn’t even matter if the teacher is male or female,” Jule told the Straight by phone. “There is a privileging of what boys contribute to the classroom.”
Jule is a cochair of the eighth International Gender and Language Association conference, which will bring researchers from 20 countries to Vancouver. From Thursday to Saturday (June 5 to 7), the event will take place at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre campus.
As an example, Jule said a teacher might ask students to identify the national capital. A girl with the correct answer might receive a “Yes” in response. However, a boy with the same answer might hear, “Yes, Ottawa is the capital city of Canada. That’s right.”
Teachers need to understand how the type and amount of language they use in the classroom affects students, Jule argued. According to her, the “gender rehearsal” that takes place in class may lead women to be quieter in the workplace, hurting their chances for career advancement.
“Gender is talked about in teacher education as part of all other kinds of differences—including race, social class, religion, creed, sexualities—but it isn’t profiled as a particularly powerful element to what we are teaching in schools,” Jule said.
Nassim Elbardouh, an English and French teacher at Britannia secondary school in Vancouver, told the Straight her courses at SFU didn’t delve into gender. She strives to use gender-neutral language in class.
“I would hesitate to offer a course that maybe reinforces those gender binaries,” Elbardouh said by phone. “But if it was a course that encouraged students to question gender and how we reinforce stereotypes in our classroom and in our practice, then I would support it.”
Ministry of Education spokesperson Ben Green told the Straight by phone that policy dictates teacher-education programs must have content that “recognizes the diverse nature of our society” and addresses gender equity.