Looking around at the world I have to conclude that as teachers our responsibility is not only to educate our students and spread literacy but also to instill the value of humanity and gender equality in our children. If we want a future in which a man respects a woman and is sensitive to the feelings of a woman, then we need to sensitize our young ones from the very beginning, right from the moment they step into pre-school.
Our children come from different backgrounds and are brought up differently. Parents from varied cultures and communities raise their children in the best way possible. However, the reality is that most of them do not spend enough time with their children and they compensate for that by buying toys and gadgets for them and overlooking their inappropriate behaviour.
From childhood, children are conditioned to thinking that boys and girls are different and they are supposed to behave in a certain way. Girls are trained to behave in a specific manner when they step outside their homes but no one tells boys how they need to behave. Age-old clichés are still being used like telling a boy to stop ‘crying like a girl’! “Why are you playing with a doll, are you a girl?” Or telling a girl to ‘behave like a girl’. All these little things shape the child’s mentality and he starts believing that he is more superior than a girl.
On the other side, the girl child starts believing that she is inferior and she behaves in the same manner. This happens sometimes knowingly, but mostly unknowingly. It is because of the way we have been conditioned in our male-dominant society. We have focused so much on trying to keep our children from becoming victims that we’ve forgotten to teach them not to be culprits.
This is the reason that we teachers need to undo what is happening at home and teach our children that men and women are equal and we need to treat both the genders with respect. This is the only way we can make a change in the society. The path is arduous but we teachers have what it takes to bring about this change. We need to instill the following values in our children right from the start when it is still easy to mould the little ones’ minds. Let’s stop assuming that they know these values intuitively and realize that we need to teach them explicitly.
Values to be taught to our children
• Remember a girl is a person with feelings.
• Ask her how she feels and listen to her.
• Respect her limits when she says no.
• Don’t pressure her to do things she is hesitant about or not ready for.
• Don’t be a bully.
• Don’t spread gossip or rumors about her.
• Protect her reputation.
• Be a gentleman and treat a girl how you would treat the ladies of your house.
• Make yourself proud.
• Save a woman’s dignity.
• Share the household work.
• Being stronger does not give you the right to yield power over someone.
Strategies to be incorporated in the classroom
• Boys and girls should be encouraged to sit with each other in the classroom.
• Teach boys to respect a girl’s wishes and boundaries from a young age, including in their interactions with girl siblings.
• Teach children to ask each other’s permission before invading each other’s personal space.
• Model respectful treatment towards women.
• Solve disagreements in such a manner that both parties are treated respectfully.
• If any of your actions become disrespectful, apologize in front of your children.
• Take regular sessions on good touch and bad touch.
• Dramatize role reversals.
• Build a bond with your children so that they are comfortable in sharing their feelings with you.
• Do not make any comments that are gender-biased.
• Share women oriented stories and allow them to discuss the same.
• Visual representation through videos, movies, media and projects.
Let’s work as a team and bring about this much needed change in our society.
The author is a pre-primary teacher at Arya Vidya Mandir, Bandra West , Mumbai, for the past seven years. She is passionate about reading and creative writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.