Pentucket Profile

Teachers Respond to Gender Equality at Pentucket

OLIVIA EDIC, COPYEDITOR

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To continue exploring gender equality at Pentucket, teachers in different departments shared their opinions on the subject. Perspectives from teachers in all core subjects are expressed, and all teachers interviewed were in favor of the possibility of a gender and cultural studies class at Pentucket.

History

Ms. Cherry

Mrs. Cherry views women’s history as being evident in “two defined areas” in her class curriculum: the era of reform in the 1830s and 1840s, and the Progressive movement. Less formally, Mrs. Cherry explains that “we talk about women’s roles in society through my class.” In being a female teacher, Mrs. Cherry aims to “always include people who were silenced by a power structure,” and in doing so, hopes to have a positive impact on students.

Mrs. Cherry believes that one way to support all students is to “encourage active participation,” as she goes on to explain that “generally, male students tend to be more empowered by society because men are taught to be strong, powerful, even more aggressive … women (girls) are encouraged to be quiet, nurturing, subdued, poised….none of those are bad but they often encourage girls to not have as much of a voice in the classroom.”

To combat these gender stereotypes, Mrs. Cherry encourages debates, mock trials, and other activities where students are given a platform on which to have strong opinions. She notes that “strength of participation isn’t something that’s a feature of boys or girls, but of just good students.”

In regards to improving gender equality in her classroom, Mrs. Cherry went to a professional development entitled “Invisible Differences” offered by the superintendent where she was able to build skills to empower students. She cites specific examples such as “Stop It, Name It, Claim It,” where she addresses intolerant and ignorant comments by stopping when she is doing, addressing the issue, and explaining that offensive behavior will not be tolerated in the classroom.

Mr. Harty

History teacher Mr. Harty cited similar topics to Mrs. Cherry, including the women’s suffrage and the civil rights movements.

Mr. Harty also notes the importance of discussing such topics; by excluding the topic, Mr. Harty says, “you would be sending a message that it isn’t important.” He feels that discussion of marginalized groups is important in historical context because  it “should compliment any unit on Americans gaining rights in our society.”

“This country has a history of  denying people rights, but our system allows for citizens to unite and advocate for equality,” Mr. Harty explains. At Pentucket, Mr. Harty says that “the GSA has done a good job over the years of promoting equality in the school,” and recalls when Pentucket participated in The Day of Silence in 2008, 2009, and 2010. He believes that a gender and cultural studies class would hopefully “enlighten students about the issues surrounding gender roles and the inherent inequality that exists in our society” and become more active members of society.

Science

Ms. Lentz

Although chemistry teacher Mrs. Lentz notes that gender equality is not embedded inther curriculum, she encourages girls “to participate in science as much as they can” as the STEM field is currently male-dominated. She has noticed in an increase in female students taking classes like AP Chemistry, and is happy to see “that girls are pursuing science at high levels and moving on to science related fields in college.”

Mrs. Lentz feels that the “awareness is there” of gender (in)equality at Pentucket, and feels that the “professional development at the beginning of the year lead by the DESE was very informative and I believe made teachers more aware of the diversity of students at Pentucket.”

She feels that more opportunities to educate and empower these students, such as scholarships for females pursuing STEM in college or a gender and cultural studies class, would be beneficial to students. If Pentucket created a gender and cultural studies class, Mrs. Lentz feels that important topics would include traditional male and female roles in American society, male and female roles in the media, men and women in sports, men and women in science, and more.

Foreign Language

Ms. Villani

Latin teacher Ms. Villani explains that “in my field, in Latin, it seems to be that… women take Latin more than men.”  Ironically, she says, people that students learn about in the class are typically male.

Ms. Villani does notice the gender inequality prevalent in certain areas of her curriculum, such as oratory: “even when you Google ‘greatest speakers of all time,’ no women come up,” she says, and explains that “the most powerful women are some of the women behind the men, but they don’t get any credit for it.”

Gender inequality prevails in the Latin language grammatically as well; Ms. Villani explains that if an adjective is describing a group, it only takes one male for the adjective ending to be masculine even if there are more women in the group. However, she notes that gendered nouns were assigned arbitrarily to “help people know which words go with which other words.”

Ms. Villani does recognize the importance of discussing gender (in)equality in a historical context, saying that  “absolutely, I think it should be talked about.” In regards to modern English, Ms. Villani supports changes to be more gender inclusive with language as “we aren’t making changes to accomodate people, we’re making changes to reflect what our people are.”

Math

Mrs. Barlow

Mathematics teacher Mrs. Barlow believes “that it [the topic of gender equality] is embedded subtly” in her curriculum. She explains that “word problems from textbooks seem to evenly distribute the use of male and female names. I also try to call on an even amount of “girls” and “boys” during class discussions.” In an effort to encourage females wishing to pursue STEM careers, Mrs. Barlow “tell[s] them that I think that it is great and that we need more females in these positions!”

Outside of the classroom, Mrs. Barlow feels that “Pentucket supports the LGBTQ+ students–with the GSA Club and the implementation of the Gender Neutral Bathroom.” She hopes that “if there was any inappropriate remarks/comments to an LGBTQ student, that the administration would support the student.”  
She also explains that Pentucket sustains gender equality in sports: “If there was a request for a new boys sports team, it could not happen unless a girls team was also formed (not necessarily in the same sport but with a different sport).”

Mrs. Barlow says that she would be in favor of a gender and cultural studies class, hoping that if “someone taking the class viewed the world only through the eyes of a WASP that it would enlighten them to think differently and treat others differently.”

Physical Education

Mrs. Kelley

Physical education teacher Mrs. Kelley acknowledges “that the gym can be overwhelming for some students,” and says that the gym teachers’ goals are to “try to help student’s work through that fear.”  She elaborates on the anxiety some students feel in gym settings by explaining that it “is always helpful when there are two teachers to allow students to make two different intensity levels so that students feel comfortable”.

  To give students more options to feel comfortable and explore their interests,  Mrs. Kelley cites examples of gym electives like “Cooperative games, Personal fitness, Fitness and nutrition, Strength and conditioning and an on-line Independent course.”

She also states that “This year, we finally had some curtains put in all  the locker rooms so that every locker room will allow student to change in a private area.  We also have bathrooms in the back hall that have been used for some students. I think as a school, we are trying to improve our school for all students.” She hopes that these new options will give all students the opportunity to feel comfortable in gym class.

She also thanks “Mrs. CC and the members of the GSA,” explaining that “our professional development at the beginning of the year was about gender-nonconforming students.  I felt it was so informative and believe it was helpful for the whole staff. I think it would be a great idea to have a gender and cultural studies class here at Pentucket for our students.” To summarize her views on the topic, Mrs. Kelly says that “We need to continue to find ways to make every student feel safe in our classes and to understand and respect individual differences.”

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Teachers Respond to Gender Equality at Pentucket