Gender Issues in Schools and Accommodating the Differences

by Abbey Baker

While gender is becoming less of a rigid way to classify students, there are still issues concerning differences between male and female students in schools. Certain developmental milestones affect girls differently than boys, and vice versa.To serve students effectively, schools must keep a good balance of accommodation and equality for male and female students.

Girls' Development

Research has shown that female students tend to be more verbal, excelling in reading and writing. Girls are also generally less prone to raise their hands in class and may be more timid in offering their opinions. These trends start early in school, but often girls' class participation evens out with boys' during high school. Girls also experience complicated emotional and hormonal changes throughout adolescence are more prone to depression, eating disorders and unhealthy sexual behavior. On the positive side, girls are often more efficient, careful, motivated, attentive and mature. Some of these differences may be biological, while many are due to cultural and societal norms.

Boys' Development

Boys face their own hurdles and show their own strengths. Boys are more likely to excel in math, science and other areas that are spatial and abstract. Research has shown that they are also less neat and careful than girls and that they tend to act out in hyperactive ways in the classroom. While boys are less likely to deal with psychological problems than girls, they are also less likely to receive emotional support and may become angry rather than depressed. More boys have behavior issues, such as ADHD, that get in the way of their learning. Again, some of the reasons behind these facts are biological, while some are societal and cultural.

Accommodations

Above all, schools should foster equality among students of different genders, but there may be times when accommodations are helpful for students' learning. Hosting a "girls' group" and a "boys' group" after school will give students the comfort to talk about issues particular to their gender. During class, teachers should pay attention to girls who are timid about answering questions and should allow them space to develop their voices. Providing a range of activities both in and out of the classroom (physical activity as well as music, for instance) will allow all students to feel comfortable and stimulated.

Equal Treatment

Treating students equally will likely be as helpful as any accommodation. Encourage students to talk to each other as classmates, regardless of gender. Also, be aware that many boys may be as uncomfortable playing sports as girls. Similarly, there may be girls who are hyperactive in class and boys who are timid. While their differences should be acknowledged, girls and boys should all enjoy equal respect, care and opportunities.

About the Author

Abbey Baker is a writer and teacher at an alternative school in Burlington, Vt., where she specializes in working with students who have learning disabilities. Baker has a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing and writes short stories. She recently had a short story published in "Eleven Eleven" journal.

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