Being a TEFL teacher who is also a feminist can be a frustrating experience.
Whether you’re confronted with sexist, racist or homophobic attitudes in your classroom, or you’re teaching lessons from textbooks full of gender stereotypes, it can be hard to reconcile your classes with your personal beliefs.
When I arrived at the Hydro bar, the women, who were wearing fashionable dresses and smart suits, were giggling nervously as they put on badges with a number on them. “Maybe my jeans are a bad idea”, I thought. I chatted to other people while we waited…The men included a chef, a banker, a photographer, an engineer, a management consultant, and a novelist. They were just pleased they could stop having to try to chat up strangers in bars. ‘It’s so hard to meet girls in London,’ said one man. ‘You can’t talk to girls at salsa classes,’ said another. Matt, 28, said, ‘After doing this one I got several dates.’
Examples such as the one above from New English File implicitly reinforce gender stereotypes. The women are described in terms of the way they’re dressed, but the men are all described by their profession. The women “giggle nervously” but the men all have the opportunity to give their opinion.
But today is International Women’s Day which is a great opportunity to introduce gender equality into your classes.
Teaching English according to feminist principles can be viewed in the context of human rights education. In a progressive classroom, teachers discourage discriminatory attitudes towards women and minorities, and you can reinforce this through your choice of topics when lesson planning, perhaps giving your students a chance to see things from a different perspective, while at the same time improving their English, of course!
- Teach Unicef has a whole page of lesson plans about gender equality here. They include videos and stories from across the world.
- This resource is all about the way that girls and boys are socialised differently, using Page 3 as an example. It’s part of the Guardian teacher network – you need to register, but it’s free.
- This article is a look at the gendered nature of work, with an infographic, which could make for an interested reading activity provoking lots of further discussion.
- There’s lots of different resources on this page, which looks at women of history, focused on the United States.
- The Facebook group Cup of Jane have lots of short subtitled videos about marginalised women of history which could work well as a lesson intro.
- The Guardian newspaper have numerous articles about different types of feminism, suitable for reading activities – no sign in needed – as well as this guide to teaching feminism in the classroom.
- Use a podcast for a listening exercise. The Guilty Feminist is a comedic podcast which looks at feminist issues every week.
- TED talks are another excellent resource for lesson planning. There are lots of talks about different facets of the feminist issues that women face which you can base a lesson on, and all the videos can be subtitled.
- This blog has an excellent list of ways in which you can make your classroom a more feminist space.
What resources are you planning to use today for International Women’s Day?