Thursday, March 3, 2011

Women Make History

by Yvonne Yates
Director of School Services, KLRN

Mae Jemison once said that you should never limit yourself because of others’ limited imaginations and never limit others because of your own limited imagination. She broke frontiers in 1992 by becoming the first African American woman to travel to space while on board the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

Women’s History Month encourages the celebration of women in history as a way to promote equality among the sexes in the classroom. Writing this reminded me of a time when I was at recess with my students and I heard one of the young men in my class tell the young ladies that they could not play football because it was a “boy’s game.” I smiled at the girls and told the boys that if the girls wanted to play that they could. The exact same day, we were making ice cream in science and one of the girls told her partner that she needed to do the mixing of the ingredients because she was the girl. After these two instances, I decided that I would take some time at the end of our day to have a class meeting to discuss gender roles.

I started the conversation talking about their parents and asking with they did for a living. Many of my students had parents in the military, and we discussed their role in their particular job. I asked my students if a person of the opposite sex could do the job that their mother or father does. “Yes, Ms. Yates of course.” I continued to talk to them and said that although some career and activities are predominantly one gender, this did not limit the other gender to participate. We made a list of all the activities that mostly only men do and another list of activities that mostly only women do. One side had basketball player and race car driver and the other had cook and teacher. We discussed the WNBA and shows such as Top Chef.

I gave them as an extra-credit assignment to find pictures or articles of people in careers that they thought were only for men or for women. It opened my students’ eyes to a world where anything is possible and that there are no limits to what you can do--if you let your imagination fly. I never again heard my students limit their classmates to any activities on or off the playground.

Some students might not know of influential women such at Dolley Madison who pushed the envelope of United States politics in the early 1800’s.

What are some of the lessons that you are teaching in your classroom that focus on the role of women in history?