Teaching empowers

Autumn Lee, Life Columnist

Conversations around education often focus on the gender imbalance among students.

What I don’t hear discussed is gender representation among teachers.

More than three quarters of kindergarten through high school teachers are women, according to a September 2014 New York Times article.

Sitting in my education courses, this number doesn’t surprise me.

Around me are mostly female students and professors.

According to the 2011 Campus Climate Survey, 64 percent of faculty and staff at UVM were female.

In elementary and middle school, most of my teachers were women and though the gender diversity increased in high school I noticed differences between our educators.

Male teachers were attributed to providing less work.

My female teachers were seen as bitchy.

“If a job is done primarily by women, people tend to believe it has less value,” the New York Times article states.

It’s my boyfriend’s first year as a music teacher and his students love him, always greeting him with fist bumps.

I can’t help feeling apprehension about his success.

I’m worried I won’t be able to calm down a classroom of rowdy children like he does or that if I do I will be seen as a hardass.

In my high school classes, boys flirted and harassed female teachers. How will I handle situations like that and still maintain my professionalism?

“Education empowers women to overcome discrimination. [They] have greater awareness of their rights, and greater confidence and freedom to make decisions,” an October 2013 UN Education First Initiative fact sheet states.

We need to pay attention not only to the girls we are teaching, but also to the people who are providing education.

It’s impossible not to apply the gender norms I experienced in my childhood to my future career.

But aside from the problems  I see, I also remember the female teachers who helped me grow as a woman.

As gender norms change in our society, they should also change in our classrooms.

If we want tomorrow to be different, we need to give our children the tools for change.