‘Sensible girls’ and ‘silly boys’ : what do teachers need to know about gender?

Major, Jae and Santoro, Ninetta (2013) ‘Sensible girls’ and ‘silly boys’ : what do teachers need to know about gender? Australian Educational Researcher. ISSN 0311-6999

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Much to the consternation of many feminist researchers, teacher education programs have become largely silent about gender and the influence of gender discourses on teaching and learning. Stereotypical views of males and females can dominate teachers’ views of boys and girls, and they can be seen as essentially different—as binary opposites. This has implications for identity construction of children as they take up or resist the identity positions made available to them by the teacher. In this paper, the intersection of gender with culture/ethnicity is examined in the context of identity construction. Classroom-based data are considered in relation to a ‘sensible girls/silly boys’ binary, and the teacher’s positioning of a Chinese heritage boy and Korean heritage girl in a New Zealand primary classroom. We suggest that the teacher’s discursive practices based on unexamined assumptions, limited the identity positions available to the children in relation to gender and culture. We argue that teacher education has an important role to play in preparing teachers with a critical orientation towards dominant gender discourses, and an understanding of the intersection of gender with other discourses, such as culture and ethnicity.