Are You a Feminist?

For some people the word “feminist” is a loaded one, filled with images of bra burners, shrill voices, strident slogans, and the phrase “women’s lib.”

Woman_holding_Equal_Rights_Amendment_sign_in_Los_Angeles,_California,_with_two_men,_one_of_them_yawningBra burning myth aside, a feminist is simply a person who believes in equality between men and women. It’s taken over two hundred thirty years for the 51% majority to gain the right to own property, vote, and access birth control. We’re still not done and here’s one reason why.

Barriers exist to girls’ school achievement in math & science, industries that lead to some of the highest-paying jobs. I’ve seen what three of these barriers look math girllike during my visits to elementary and middle school classrooms:

  1. Girls called on 66% less often than boys during math and science.
  2. Boys receiving as much as 4 times more one-on-one help than girls in math and science.
  3. Boys encouraged to use counting materials twice as often than girls.

Each time I showed my data to teachers, they were horrified and assured me they had no idea what they were doing. I believe them. It’s the little things we don’t notice that add up to the big things, like a culture of low expectations, low confidence, and little support for girls.

The same holds true at home. Have you heard mothers (and fathers) say to their daughters, “I can’t do math, either.” Yikes! Although probably meant to reassure a daughter, it does the opposite. It lowers confidence and relieves them of high expectations.female_symbol

As our society continues to evolve, remind yourself that adding support for girls doesn’t negate support for boys. It simply makes the world a better place for everyone.

A more equal society, thanks to a feminist point of view.

Seeds of Greatness: Marjorie and Sam

One October, a parent named Marjorie asked if she could visit our class and teach a science lesson. The author of The Victory Garden Kid’s Book (available at Amazon), Marjorie brought in tulip bulbs and her son Sam—my student—assisted.

My bulbs sleeping under New Yorker covers (Fall 2014)
My bulbs sleeping under New Yorker covers (Fall 2014)

The fourth graders crowded around a table as she split a few bulbs open and helped them touch and explore its different parts. The tulip flower was already inside, she said, as she pointed out the bud. Sam helped answer questions. Marjorie’s enthusiasm radiated as she captivated everyone with the wonder of a flower tucked inside a bulb.

Afterwards, we traipsed outside and planted bulbs. In the spring,

Bulbs know when it's time to push awake. (Feb 2015)
Bulbs know when it’s time to push awake (Feb 2015).

the students rediscovered them and busied themselves measuring elapsed time, time to bloom, height, temperature, and formulated more questions. Planting bulbs

Everything's awake thanks to darkness and cool temps. (Feb 2015
Everything’s awake thanks to darkness and cool temps (Feb 2015).

wasn’t part of that year’s science or math curriculum, but the hands-on aspect made it a natural fit.

That day, Marjorie and Sam planted seeds of greatness among us. From a shared hands-on lesson, my students grew and flourished.

Forced daffodils inside, 4 feet of snow outside.
Forced daffodils inside, 4 feet of snow outside.