#Ophea100 Learning Series: Starting with Gender Equity in Mind
Starting this blog with the same spirit of the webinar, we would like to offer you an invitation. You don’t have to accept it and it’s up to you how much you want to engage. In this second learning series, we invite you to take the time to understand the terminology being shared, reflect on how you feel about the questions asked within this blog, and notice any provocations on how it may impact your learning and teaching of the curriculum, and helping to create spaces that are more equitable for everyone.
So, what does gender have to do with H&PE? Why do we feel the need to know and label gender identity? Does knowing how a person identifies affect the way we treat them? Is gender a binary? What concepts of gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation do I need to learn about? Is knowing about someone’s gender a precondition for treating someone a certain way?
On Wednesday, August 18, 2021 Ophea hosted a webinar that asked educators to consider what they know about gender and how that plays a role in creating safe, inclusive, Health and Physical Education (H&PE) environments as well as motivates students to be active and healthy for life. Moving forward with the philosophy that H&PE is for everyone and that the goal of H&PE is to create lifelong movers, we need to consider who everyone is, the unique identities of some of our students, and how our relationship with students directly impacts their experiences within H&PE.
"The health and physical education curriculum is based on the vision that the knowledge and skills students acquire in the program will benefit them throughout there lives and enable them to thrive.”[i] As educators, we have the opportunity to activate this vision and ensure these goals are accessible for all our students; as relationships can directly impact experiences within this subject area.
In this session, educators were supported in exploring gender equity through current events to build terminology and considerations related to gender identity and expression. Through provocations, discussions, and using equity minded frameworks, educators reflected on their own practice and acknowledged their starting point in building learning spaces for all students.
We would like to thank the experts and co-presenters of this webinar:
- Joe Tong, a teacher and Sessional Instructor with the University of British Columbia.
- Jason Trinh, Coordinator of Global Competencies/STEM/ICT, Toronto District School Board.
- Deniece Bell, a Health & Physical Education teacher with the Peel District School Board and Ambassador at Ophea.
- Andrea Haefele, a Health & Physical Education teacher with the York Region District School Board and currently seconded as a curriculum consultant at Ophea.
Before diving into any terminology, the hosts Joe and Jason, asked educators, “what is equity to you?” Take a moment now to consider what the definition of equity means to you in the roles you hold, within your perspectives, and identity. Educators shared,
- “Giving space, voice and opportunity to those marginalized - windows and mirrors - all students should see themselves and their lived experience in the school/curriculum and see/learn about what is outside their lived experience.” - Webinar Participant
- “Each person getting what they need to be successful and feel good about themselves.” - Webinar Participant
- “Being mindful of how students see themselves as part of our larger community - equity to me.” - Webinar Participant
- “Each individual is honoured and respected and has or is given what they need at any given moment” - Webinar Participant
- “Taking steps to make sure folks are seen, heard, and valued in a way that supports their growth and development” - Webinar Participant
Past Reflection and Future Movement
In what ways did/do we learn about gender? How do our past experiences show up in our practices? What is it in my past that’s allowing me to see or understand what’s in front of me?
Gender is often built on childhood experiences, observations, social spaces, geographic locations, cultural or societal norms, media, or the built environment. There are many things that contribute to our notion of gender and how we see ourselves and our students in the classroom. For some, it may be discomforting when discussing gender identity and for others, exclaiming about gender identity is part of their daily practice. Either way, we all have different starting points and that is okay!
When we approach things, we approach them based on our lived experiences and identities – this may contribute an amount of bias to our pedagogical approach and teaching and learning environment.
Key Terminology: we need to know to understand and understand to do better
In this webinar, four key terms and one concept were used as a springboard for discussion:
- Sex Assigned at Birth
- Gender Identity
- Gender Expression
- Sexual Orientation
- Colonialism and Gender
Before diving into any key terms, Joe and Jason expressed the importance of considering the concept of colonialism and gender. This relationship between colonialism and gender is important to consider when looking at the reasoning behind the terms, sex assigned at birth, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Taking a moment to acknowledge how the construct of gender is built within the fabric of our society allows us to consider the significance and impact of these three terms.
When it comes to gender equity, knowing the difference between key terminology and refraining from making assumptions is important in creating a safe and inclusive environment. As we continue to work together in creating an inclusive environment that fosters gender equity in our school communities, start by reflecting on how gender plays a role in how we build relationships with our staff, students, their families and beyond.
Thinking back to your own experiences in life or within education, what assumptions might you have made about someone’s gender identity and sexual orientation based on gender expression? How do these assumptions impact how we teach and/or build relationships with our students?
Knowing these terms and the impact they have on students’ lives are important for creating an open, welcoming, safe space for students in H&PE. Misgendering, misuse of pronouns, assuming role expectations, assuming that the way someone expresses their gender equates to their sexual orientation, etc. can have harmful prolonged impacts.
A good analogy to understanding these concepts more deeply is The Genderbread Person. This illustration shows that identity, sex, attraction, and expression are all fluid and that experiences belong to a person – they do not belong to us and we do not need to know this information. In building relationships with our students and people in society, we need to focus on connecting on a humanistic level versus knowing identities first then working from there.
Moving from Policy into Action: how might we enact systems change?
As educational leaders, how might our understanding of these concepts help us address the many inequities and intersections in our school communities?
- Policy level: Does the school documentation and policies support the rights of students?
- School level: What does the structure of our built environments communicate about gender equity? Are there gender-neutral bathrooms or change rooms? Are the dress code policies different for male and female students?
- Educator level: How can I communicate a safe, inclusive learning environment for every student? Am I using equity minded frameworks (like Universal Design for Learning) in my class? How will learners engage with my lesson and does this lesson provide options for all learners? Does the information I am presenting help or harm my learners? How are learners expected to act and express themselves in my class? LGBTQI2S students are half as likely to play sports as straight teens; how do we change this within our H&PE class?
Inclusive Practises Start with All of Us
Read through the following questions and consider them in relation to your own lived experience. Take a moment to record your thoughts to each of the questions and define steps for action this school year:
- What was your shift/entry point? Was there a framework you used?
- What can educational leaders do to take steps towards gender equity?
- What supports might we need to move forward from here?
- What perspectives do I choose to engage with? Who is in my immediate friend group? Who do I follow on social media?
- What words or strategies might I unlearn and remove from my practices that uphold the gender binary?
- What habits and routines will I create in order to learn continuously and engage with diverse experiences?
- Am I ready to take action by pushing back on structures/individuals that wish to uphold harmful practices in the status quo?
- What misconceptions might I have about gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation?
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[i] Ontario Ministry of Education. (2019). The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education (pg. 6). Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/2019-health-physical-education-grades-1to8.pdf