What keeps me awake at night - Students who refuse to respect women

24th May 2013 at 01:00

I have been teaching at a state secondary school (ages 11-16) in a very mixed community for the past two years and in those two years I have encountered the same issue over and over again: certain male students from some Asian backgrounds refuse to respect me, a woman, as a teacher.

The issues were apparent right from the start - misbehaving in lessons, giggling and not paying attention, even refusing to do as I asked or simply ignoring me altogether.

This is not a question of behaviour management. I have no issues with any children other than this particular group of boys. And I have spoken to other female teachers who have exactly the same problem. These boys simply don't like taking orders from women, whatever their age or intelligence.

Male teachers in the school have noticed this tendency and have attempted to talk to these students to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, it has not worked and the feedback is that these students are simply not accustomed to being told what to do by a woman and do not wish to adapt.

Because of the cultural backgrounds of these boys, doing anything about the issue is incredibly difficult. Political correctness means the school is reluctant to address the problem directly. But it is getting to the point where something needs to be done as the disruption is affecting other students' education.

One thing I have found that works with some of the students is threatening to tell their parents that they are not committed to their education. For some of the boys, fear of their parents outweighs their sexism. Unfortunately, others simply don't seem to care and probably realise the conversation would be unlikely to happen because of the cultural sensitivities involved.

I am not criticising the school for not addressing the issue directly; I understand the difficulty of the situation. Nor is the problem occurring with all boys from an Asian background - some are incredibly respectful.

However, I feel there should at least be more discussion of the matter so that we can try to find a solution. Until that happens, these students will not only be damaging their own education but that of other students, too.

The writer is a teacher from the North of England

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Email jon.severs@tes.co.uk.

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