It would probably have been easier writing this post if I’d done it right after the second F2F in November, but here we are.
HOW MIGHT WE… apply a lens of positive masculinity to the design of health curriculum to promote equity and inclusion of all learners?
As we moved through the second F2F, I found that I really moved toward more clarity in where I was currently focusing my energy, and also where I wanted to focus my energy moving forward… what I found to be both urgent and important. I’ve found myself feeling up against the messaging of “what’s expected of boys” as we’ve navigated adjusting our expectations of student behaviours coming out of the covid years, coupled with a growing awareness of what we reward and validate among our students (and colleagues). As I’ve been in this HPE role, I’ve seen the opportunities that it has to unpack toxic masculinity in the boys’ school environment by exploring identity, self-awareness, gender norms, and emotional intelligence. It can be a space to center equity, belonging and respect for all, and a space to gradually shift away from the “boys club” culture that is entrenched in so many boys’ schools.
I enjoyed the “sphere of influence” activity because this helped me see that despite not being in the traditional classroom with one group of students, I have the potential to influence students and teachers across all elementary grades through diverse curricular and athletics programs. As I worked through the empathizing activity, I was drawn to two “users,” the traditionally masculine student who is active, competitive, tough and loves phys. ed. classes, but shies away from activities that ask them to turn inward, and the gentle, “less masculine” student who is non-competitive, has high emotional intelligence and excels at being vulnerable, but doesn’t belong as immediately in phys. ed. spaces. I wanted to reflect on the “boys’ culture” and think about what’s expected, what messages students explicitly or subtly receive, and who belongs. I wondered if either of these students/users have unmet needs and if there were ways to create an increased sense of belonging while exploring masculinity.
As we brainstormed possible HMW questions, my problem was, “Students need to see themselves in the program in order to be included.” Now I realize that this doesn’t completely get at my focus, but it was a start. As someone who comes to her best ideas by talking through them aloud, I really benefited from the collaborative nature of the HMW question design.
What really energized me was thinking about the “how” once I had my HMW direction. Starting with the health curriculum, I started thinking about looking at this through the lens of positive masculinity and then thinking about what knowledge and skills we want the students to come out of this curricular program with. ChatGPT was a big help here, too, and wrote a succinct 10-step list of how to achieve my HMW question. Some big themes were building a checklist to evaluate lessons and units, developing a resource hub, connecting with experts, seeking student feedback, and assessing changes in attitudes/behaviours/perceptions. The collective graffiti activity also gave me some ideas about resources and directions for this project.
Now, finally, we’re at the Road Map. I was ambitious for my to-do’s in November and December but did not accomplish all of what I’d hoped. I started making a resource list of books, podcasts, videos, and organizations that would be good places to explore positive masculinity. The checklist and student survey feel like the logical next steps moving forward with this action plan.
What I’m still challenged by and could use support with…
- How to assess current attitudes, behaviours, and perceptions around current culture and understanding of masculinity – should this be explicit (and do students have the capacity to think critically about it) or something else?
- Are there other faculty members also interested in this exploration?
- Has anyone created a checklist that they apply to planning to ensure they meet their goals (e.g., UDL, IEP accommodations, DEI, etc.)?