On page 6 The daily grind, in Life in Classrooms, author P. Jackson discussed the fuss elementary teachers make about classroom decorations and bulletin boards. I want to concentrate on the subtle gender stereotypes at play here. I had a chance to substitute in classrooms at every grade level for teachers of either gender. I noticed there were only a few male elementary teachers, and they rarely had organized or “pretty” classrooms. If there was an EA in those classrooms, they would bemoan the state of the classroom, but praise the quality of education happening within. In the middle years and high school level, the classrooms of male teachers tended to showcase their personalities. The athlete, nerd, gamer, fan, politician, philosopher, and environmentalist were among the different personality types I saw demonstrated. When I worked in the classrooms of female teachers and the middle years and high school teachers, I saw less focus on the aesthetics than in elementary, but also observed a few other types of personality types that were less common among the males. These tended to be the poet, artist, and social justice warrior. I can’t help wondering if competition to have Pinterest worthy classrooms has acted as a deterrent for males becoming elementary teachers and if this was related to undercurrents of toxic masculinity. I wonder if that toxic masculinity extended to the way men at the high school level tended to decorate their classrooms, like a reflection of the online “bro-club” that has acted as a gate-keeper for science fiction, gaming, and general STEM interests. I wonder if there might be an undercurrent of bullying that happens to keep the genders teaching at the grade levels and in the subject areas that stereotypes have determined are appropriate for their gender.
The three facts of life when it comes to education mentioned in this article—crowds, praise and power—got me thinking about the neurodivergent experience of the educational system. We are supposed to accept crowds as a fact of life in school, which automatically sets neurodivergent students apart. They are made “different” by their difficulty dealing with crowded classrooms as if finding this a struggle was unreasonable. In reality, I’d classify them as the only ones responding appropriately if nobody else thinks the crowded classroom is a problem. The special interests many neurodivergent students have is also something that “others” them in a typical classroom setting. They are not supposed to want to spend so much time pursuing something that interests them. They are supposed to want to comply with the teacher’s expectation that they show interest in the subject matter being taught, or at the very least, that they show interest in getting the reward of praise that comes with good marks. When a teacher is unable to motivate them through the typical means used with other students, neurodivergent students become a “problem”. The last matter I want to talk about is the power dynamic when it comes to neurodivergent students. Many of these students are being subjected to 40 hours per week of Applied Behavior Analysis. Even without the aversives, this “therapy” teaches neurodivergent children than their bodies are not their own. They are taught to suppress stims for the comfort of those around them. The ABA therapists find out what their passions are, and hold them ransom to elicit the compliant behaviours they are looking for. An extraordinary number of neurodivergent people have been sexually abused/assaulted by the time they are 18 years old, primarily because ABA turns them into ideal victims.
Jackson, P. (1968). The daily grind, in Life in Classrooms, pp. 2 to 37. New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston.