The first three weeks of school are done, and I’m in the middle of a long weekend. Rather than the day to day that can fixate on missteps, this is a time to take stock and see positive movement.
This is what I noticed. After years of attempts, I have eliminated the use of “you guys” as a group identifier. I have made stilted efforts to replace it in the past, but in times of stress or exhaustion, I reverted to my old habit. Despite knowing better, breaking the habit of, “hey, you guys.” was harder than I thought.
You may have accomplished this gender neutrality by using words like scholars, students, or people. I have struggled even though I knew better. Strangely, a math class changed my language.
Algebra marked the end of my math competence. The only reason I enrolled in a summer course focusing on said content was my desire to be a better teacher and the instructor, Megan Franke. Her equity approach to learning is evident in every move she makes. I went to the class thinking if anyone she could teach me the content. Turns out, four days with her translated into more than just algebraic thinking. Megan’s consistent use of “you all” during instruction hit me as an adult, and all the more vulnerable, learner. It was a gut level reaction. You all referred to me. It welcomed me to learn.
Perhaps hearing it as a learner made it sink into my heart and change my ingrained language.
Understanding something is an essential step in our journey as educators. Experiencing it and doing is something altogether different.
Read more about gender neutral ways to students here.