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Tackling sexism in class: how to stand up to the teenage cavemen

Tackling sexist behaviour from male students can be a tricky task for female teachers − but the problem must be faced head-on, a teacher warns in this week's TES.

Rebecca McGrath writes that confronting inappropriate behaviour is all about finding the right balance. While it easy to take offence and judge a situation to be more loaded than it truly is, it is also easy – and plain wrong – to underplay it and accept behaviour that you should clearly be condemning.

“The best way to prevent inappropriate outbursts is to reveal yourself as a person who genuinely cares about your students’ learning,” Ms McGrath writes. “Once students have a connection with you, they are less likely to try to undermine your authority. In fact, you might find that many students start to defend you when others act unsuitably.”

If a student does behave inappropriately, the most important rule is not to give him the reaction he is hoping for, she says. Instead, maintain your composure and think your course of action through carefully. 

However you choose to tackle inappropriate male behaviour, Ms McGrath stresses that you must always say something.

“Not confronting such remarks gives licence for them to be made again, not just to you but to your female colleagues and peers,” she argues. “You owe it to other women to show your students that it is unacceptable every time.”

Read the full article in 23 January edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents. 

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