Saturday, March 29, 2008

I kid you not~

We're at the part in the social studies book where the thirteen colonies are forming, and Massachusetts Bay Colony, despite being formed by religious dissenters, allows no dissent among its residents.

Roger Williams was banished and has headed south to start a colony in present day Rhode Island with Anne Hutchison following on his heels. She has been speaking up as well, in Bible studies for women, later drawing in men.

The student book covers 100 years in four pages, so all the juicy details of Anne's "blasphemy" has been left out, but I paused at this part and opened a discussion about the way things were then-- Puritan women were subordinate to their husbands and were not to teach men, among other things.

The kids didn't seem indignant, or concerned, or in any way vested in the plight of Anne, or women in general in those days. But they were energized by a conversation about women and men today.

Ashley, an earnest student, and smart, raised her hand. It takes awhile for fifth graders to make their point, but hers ended with a question: "If women did men's jobs, who would do the grocery shopping?"

I kid you not.

One girl said, "We need each other. If it wasn't for women, there would be no more people."

This brought an indignant response from Matt who said, "Yeah, but you need men for that too, you know!"

I kid you not.

There was another exchange about ironing and who in the family did it. I mentioned that my husband did his own ironing.

I kid you not.

The consensus was that ironing was a cross gender activity, and I learned which fathers ironed.

The class was not able to listen and began to talk over each other. Lots of opinions got tossed in the ring, but no one wanted to hear anyone but himself, so I called off the discussion.

"That's it, I said. We need to be able to have some respect for the opinions of others. We need to listen before we respond. If you want more discussions, you'll have to have some self-control."

"Was this like a town meeting?" someone asked. I'd told the class how feisty those could get. I assured him it was similar.

After class Jen came to my desk and fumbled to express her thoughts. She hadn't liked it when someone said women should be able to do "men's jobs." She floundered, trying to express herself.

I helped her out. "Are you saying that if a woman doesn't want to do a man's job she shouldn't have to, but that the opportunity should be available to other women who might want to?"

She beamed. "That's it!" she said. "Exactly!" And she skipped off to lunch.
“One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.”~Franklin Thomas


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Wonderful to see the kids learn about basic human rights. Sadly though, how long before some of them learn to be cynical.

Tere said...

I love your teaching style. And I love how you use it to help us all learn something about our lives also.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ruth:

Delightful! We studied that same bit of North American history and it hardly reached the "now" of 1963, or whenever it was. Such dry lessons we had from Mr Benbow.

I think, raised a male chauvinist piglet, I just accepted there were things (mere) females did, and (great) things that (great) males did.

I was into my 40s before I realized that I LIKED to do things I honestly thought I shouldn't, and was good at them. Household chores, cooking, home visiting. And compassion.

I have a sister who immediately accused a friend of mine she was meeting for the first time, who happens to be a highly qualified emergency and trauma nurse, of not being a doctor. "Men are supposed to be doctors, not nurses ..."

Sadly, going back to the Massachusetts Colony, there are still a lot of "churches" that consider the female secondary or, worse, subject to the man. It's not all The Vicar of Dibley here ... there are grand men of God who believe absolutely that the women folk should be serving the tea, not the eucharist.

On the plus side, the first aeroplane to fly into Heathrow's new Terminal 5 (from China) this week was piloted by a woman. Terminal 5, meanwhile, is in chaos because the systems' designers (men, I hope) got it all wrong.

Basic human rights are good. I'm less convinced about democracy. It just doesn't work. Not for us. Not for them. But the right to gather with "like minds" ... now that is something more precious than a just war.

Girls to the left. Boys to the right. No talking.

Ross Eldridge

Ruth D~ said...

LGS~ It's kind of nice to have those uncynical years as long as possible . . . do you remember them? Kids have to learn not to trust.

Tere~ I learn too. I was actually surprised at these kids. They are precocious in many ways. Lots of girl friend boy friend things going on, and yet . . .

Ross~ Interesting as always. I became a teacher because it's what women did then. Teachers, nurses, secretaries . . . until you got married and had babies and then stayed home. Boy, did things change!

Barry said...

'heels' not 'heals' unless Williams was a healer.

I liked to iron, too, especially dress shirts. Collar, yoke, sleeves, then around the shirt starting at the right panel. Over and over as I spaced out.

Now I mostly just dry my clothes and wear them. T-shirts mainly, with cargo pants. Egregious wrinkles get swiped at with a warm palm.

Except for my favorite linen shirt. Even I, retired now 13 years, can't abide its stupendous wrinkles.

You sound like a teacher students will remember. I dare say not seeing those kids in the classroom will give you a pang once in a while.

I doubt you'll miss dressing for it, though.


Ruth D~ said...

Barry~ First off thanks for the edit. I catch them eventually when I reread at some point, but by then I feel the way I might if I spent an evening with friends and go home to find a piece of spinach between my teeth. :>)

As for the "pang" . . . yes, I feel it just anticipating not being there. Mostly I won't miss the #$@% alarm clock.

leslie said...

This is the type of day I miss with the kids but I do NOT miss that #$@% alarm clock. So nice to awaken refreshed when the body warrants it, stretch and ponder what to do for the day.

leslie said...

Oops, forgot to tell you there's an award for you at my place. Come on over to claim it. :D

Ruth D~ said...

Leslie~ The freakin' alarm . . . that's the worst!

Oh, and thank you, Leslie. I visited and saw the "award" before your invite to claim it. How nice of you!

monideepa sahu said...

You're a lovely teacher, Ruth. It's good to catch them young and gently nudge them to think about human rights.

Pauline said...

We're studying a social studies unit on Black History in second grade. Most of the 8 year olds I work with are incensed at the injustice ("Would I still be able to play with Jazzy? If you said no I STILL would!" "I would let Terry drink from MY water fountain." "I wouldn't care what they said. Tillman can kick better than me so he could ALWAYS play on my team.") They have no trouble saying what they think is fair but they have a great deal of difficulty understanding why grown people would act the way they did. I'm not much help to them; I don't understand it myself but trying leads to discussions about being afraid and being unfair and being selfish. And yes, being brave. Each one of my students wants to be part of the underground railway.

We won't get to the battle of the sexes, thank goodness. I know I could never explain to those 8 year old minds why we still do what we do in that war!

Barbara said...

Kids are so smart! It's great that you ask them to think and have opinions. After all, there are very few things that can't be done by a man or a woman...

Bob Sanchez said...

Before you retire, perhaps you could be cloned? I admire how you handle your students.

Janice Thomson said...

I agree with Bob - you have such an intelligent and compassionate way of teaching children. Perhaps the future of the world is in safe hands after all.

david mcmahon said...

I enjoyed immersing myself in this post - because I have the healthiest respect for the people who taught me.

Thanks for the visit today and the lovely comment.

And yes, I iron too!!

Akelamalu said...

David (Authorblog) recommended your post so I popped across to read it and I so agree with you.

I brought my boys up just as I would have my daughter, had I had one. I know they can do everything a woman can do, well except give birth! :)

CrazyCath said...

I love your style. The students will never forget these lessons. They learn far more than just the subject matter.

This is a wonderful post. Whilst I agree there will be those who will turn cynical, there are many you will have reached too. This is the next generation and you are doing a good job! Well done. :0)

Over from David's btw.

Wanda said...

I absolutely love the way you write about your children. As I said before...I want to go back to school an be in your class!!!

Wonderful post ~~ I kid you not!!

Josie said...

You're the type of teacher students will remember forever. There was a wonderful movie called "Good Morning Miss Dove" with Jennifer Jones. She inspired her students. You remind me of Miss Dove.