Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Unexpected Conversations...

I'm attempting to write everyday in March.Today is 6/31.

I remember hearing the following riddle on a TV show years ago, though what show I was actually watching I don't recall. Have you heard it?

A father and son are in a horrible car crash that kills the dad. The son is rushed to the hospital; just as he’s about to go under the knife, the surgeon says, “I can’t operate—that boy is my son!"

So the surgeon, in case you weren't sure, is supposed to represent the boy's mom and show the depths of our gender bias. Well, it had been years since I thought of that riddle, and yet today we used the following image from the NY Times What's Going on in this Picture site (HERE) for our quick write:

Like I always do when we have an image for a quick write, I put up the date and a title (SPACE). Kids then have a certain amount of time (today it was two minutes) to write either what they think is happening in the photo or to create a fictional story for the image. When they were done, like we always do, they turned to neighbors and shared snippets of their stories. Then I asked if anyone wanted to share with the class.

Hands flew up and as I listened to my first hour class comment on the image, I was suddenly struck by something I hadn't given a second thought - they were all using male pronouns when referring to the astronaut. Having read the image description on the link above, I knew it was a female. After letting about ten kids share, I realized that they all said "he" or "him" for their writing. So, I asked them if they'd ever heard the riddle I mentioned above. None had. Then I asked them to solve the riddle, several hands shot up and had the correct response. I then asked them if they had any idea why I was sharing this riddle during this quick write...light bulbs went on.

I explained that I completely understood that you couldn't see much of the astronaut's face, it was hard to tell that it was, in fact, a woman. My thought I simply wanted to share was why did so many of us just assume it was a male? How can we change that mindset? Do we need to change it? 

Kids are fascinating. They had insightful conversations - which continued in my 4th hour and 10th hour because the same experience repeated itself in each class. They push my thinking on a regular basis. And I'm quick to say, I don't have all the answers. I laughed, however, when we moved on to our picture book for the day. I was reading Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell. We discussed the life of Jane Goodall, how she is currently still making the world a better place. 

A kid in first hour came up to me during the passing period and paused. I asked what they were thinking and they pointed out that Jane Goodall had to overcome a gender bias in her work. Then they shared that they saw a lot of similarities between Goodall and Gandhi, who we had read about yesterday in the brilliant Grandfather Gandhi. I asked what those were and nodded as they compared these two people. The rest of the class joined in the conversation as they returned from the restroom and we talked about the phrase talk the talk, but do you walk the walk and the kids decided that indeed, Goodall and Gandhi walked the walk.

The original student who had approached me in the passing period asked if I planned all of these connections - gender bias from the image, the biases Goodall had to overcome, as did Gandhi, the connections between the two. I looked and nodded, Yep, sure did.

The class was quiet for a beat, and then someone grinned. You totally didn't. 

Nope, but it sure was fun. Man alive, middle school kids make me think. Every. Single. Day.