In times of trouble, always ask yourself: W.W.J.A.D.? In other words (or real words) What Would Julie Andrews Do?
As a teacher, I try to imagine her brilliant and musical solutions to my every query. take this for instance:
One of the school where I am privileged to teach is planning Spring/ Summer music, theatre, and dance camps and asked for suggestions, particularly for the 5-8 age group. Suggestions were made along the lines of ‘ Think Pink’ a tribute to Fancy Nancy, or Legally Blonde, or the Pink Ladies from Grease.
And the sirens roared! Gender Stereotyping! Too much emphasis on ‘girly’ stuff! What boy would be interested in that!?
First of all- colors are gender neutral. Plenty of boys would openly like pink if we didn’t tell them that it was a girl’s color. Secondly, I agree with Miss liberation front and her gender-foul. Then, the arts umpire strikes back and says:
We are in educational retail (I kid you not, this was the phrase verbatim. I couldn’t even make this up). Our major demographic for that age group is girls and ‘girly’ titles has been proven to bring them in. The option is to add gender-neutral classes on top of the female-driven ones.
In retort- I have for the past two summers, taught a camp inspired by superheroes that was entirely classed by 3-6 year old boys. Last year, I taught three sessions of this camp because it was so popular. and it was filled to maximum enrollment. Boys clearly enjoy my class too.I teach the same kind of jumps and balances and activities to both boys and girls in this age range, but yes I fully admit that where I call the butterfly-stretch (soles of the feet together) a ‘beautiful butterfly’ with my girls, I call it a ‘flying eagle’ or a ‘spaceship’ with the boys. I guess I’m guilty too.
I guess that when parents and guardians are flipping through a catalog or browsing classes online and see something like ‘princesses and swans’ or ‘airplanes and robots’ they are inclined to think, hey my kids has and likes toys of those natures and it sounds like this class will be filled with other like-minded boys/ girls that will be nice classmates for my child in this enjoyable experience. I think perhaps it is the job of the Board of directors and marketing managers to handle the paperwork aspects as they have the expertise to do so in order to bring the kids in, then the instructor’s job to make the material fun for anyone int he class. Does a title really matter? Get their interest, keep their interest. Spread the love.
I think Julie would probably call her camp something abstract like ‘Fiddlywonkus‘ and she would teach boys, girls, young, old, rich old fussies, and uneducated chimney sweeps all together and they’d all have a great time. Think about (you guessed it) Harry Potter- what if he’d gotten at age 11, a letter that said,
“congratulations! You’ve been accepted into The Magic Castle of bubbly-brews! Oo-lala!!” While Hermione got:
“Congratulations! You’ve been accepted into the Dark Dungeon of Bristly- Broomsticks! (Beware of Trolls) “
He and she might not have gone. And then where would we all be? Who would have saved the day?
We need boys and girls as superheroes, as braniacs, as artists. Whether the likes and dislikes of kids these ages are conditional or natural, I don’t know. I don’t know if keeping my dance steps and games the same but changing names or the voice I use to teach them is a hinderance to the cause of gender neutrality and eventually art (Boys don’t Dance! Girls can’t be Crew!)
I just know that I want to be the best teacher that gives the best experience that I can to all of my students. And the only title I want is Jess the fabulous!!!– which is gender unspecific, but so specifically me. .