Connections between gender relations and everyday life in an elementary classroom



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In an attempt to understand more about the relationship between individuals and the social world, everyday life in a classroom is described and discussed in terms of gender relations more broadly. The major concern is inequalities in power held by males and females and how these both inform/guide the everyday events in a particular school setting and, at the same time, are themselves supported or challenged through the school experiences. Ethnographic research procedures, including participantobservation, interviews and content analysis of written documents, were used during a three month field study the intent of which was to explore and understand the nature of a combined third and fourth grade class. In individual interviews students expressed an awareness and condemnation of gender inequalities in jobs, politics, families, as well as in relation to classroom activities. However, their everyday school activities, many of which were freely chosen (in the context of a progressive, alternative school), were often gender-segregated with boys' activities more competitive, adversarial and combative in nature, especially in comparison to the girls' activities which were non-violent, often affiliative or nurturant in nature. labile there were virtually no observations of girls interacting combatively, boys did interact with others in caring ways; it was just done less frequently, especially in play activities, than by girls. The activities, described as differing orientations, are discussed in relation to mixed messages from parents and school, as well as the school's discovery learning approach which provided students time to choose activities and encouragenent to develop their own ideas. Also, the data is discussed in terms of implications for the future lives of these particular students as well as in terms of social relations more broadly. While students' formally stated views challenged gender inequalities, much of their time was spent practicing, and gaining expertise in, skills and attitudes which parallel those characteristic of the different and unequal adult roles for males and females. In this sense, they may be strengthening existing gender inequalities.



Sex differences (Psychology) in children, Sex differences in education