“Happy International Wormn’s Day!” one of my students announced as I walked into the classroom today.
“Ha!” said one of the boys. “How come women get a special day?
“Are you serious?” another girl challenged him.
“Yeah,” he said, “when is it men’s day?”
The girl who had welcomed me rolled her eyes. “Every day is men’s day!”
It seems like a lighthearted story. You could just laugh and keep doing whatever you were doing and not think any more about it.
Still, there are deeper issues here that I felt the need to address.
These are teenagers. Without quizzing them to find out where they stand individually, some generalized conclusions can be drawn.
The girls are aware enough to know that inequality still exists, but have been raised in a generation that knows we can demand better treatment than what those who have gone before have experienced.
The boys are less understanding of the issues that still exist.. there are probably as many reasons why as there are boys present in the room.
So, we had a discussion about recognising and addressing inequality— of various types, about mistakes of the past and not perpetuating them, and about our concepts of respect, acceptance and difference.
Obviously, we didn’t manage to solve all the problems of the world during that lesson. We did, however, leave with the girls feeling both acknowledged and respected, and everyone more aware of the importance of treating one another as equals, regardless of what types of differences exist between us.
As a Humanities teacher, that made for a happy International Women’s Day indeed.