A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Sunday, October 24, 2010

And another thing!

One of my colleagues came to pitch a situation to me that I have to admit I had never encountered in all my career in the classroom.

"One of my students has informed me that she no longer wants to be referred to by feminine pronouns. Instead, she wants to be addressed by masculine pronouns. How would you handle it?" asked my friend.

I see the difficulty. Of course, one wants to be absolutely sensitive and respectful of students and their situations, but when one is in the middle of teaching, and the flow of information is coming fast and furious, one could slip up. A lot.

I asked if she had changed her name, too, or wanted that changed, and he said no. So... Here's what I suggested:

Certainly agree to do one's very best to accommodate the student's request, a long as the kiddo understands that we are only human and we may accidentally slip up every now and then. Then refer to the young lady either in first person ("Jamie, you forgot your book,") when using pronouns or just refer to the young lady by name whenever possible.

Then try to keep this in the forefront of one's brain while tying to do the twenty-two other tasks one juggles while attempting to teach a class of teenagers.


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At 10/24/10, 3:27 PM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

Love the last sentence, which fairly well captures exactly what I was thinking when I read of that situation. I've had two girls whom I did not identify as such over the years. This was tough, as both had foreign names that suggested neither male nor female to me. And none of my colleagues were sure either. One really looked like a boy, but, of course, she knew better than I would.

At 10/24/10, 3:46 PM, Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

We had a student who specifically requested the pronoun change last year, and we bent over backwards to accommodate him (he also had a foreign name that didn't suggest one gender or the other). He was patient with us when we forgot, but it didn't take long to get used to it.

At 10/24/10, 5:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this student considering changing her gender or does s/he believe gender pronouns are sexist?

I teach elementary school, so I don't see this happening to me in the near future, but if I taught high school? I would start to refer to all students by their first names only. No personal pronouns at all. In fact I might stop using pronouns all together. But I am a sarcastic b!tc#.

I am actually really interested in the reason s/he requested the changed.

And Mrs. Chili, I am just wondering, was the student a female who requested the male pronoun or male to female?

At 10/28/10, 6:46 PM, Anonymous Mrs. H. said...

I had a student once who made this request as well. She not only wanted the pronoun changed, but she wanted to be referred to by a different (male) name. It was confusing, and she would get SO upset when I slipped up.

Eventually she changed her mind and wanted to go back to what she was called before. Needless to say, it was very confusing. She was a very sweet, very confused girl, and I had a huge soft spot for her. It was still hard to remember.


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