“Miss, are YOU a feminist?!”
Maintaining my feminism in a single-sex boys school has its challenges. Especially when you are outnumbered, under 30 and significantly shorter than the young men you teach.
When I began my teaching career, I was the youngest female staff member by years. There were only three women in middle management; Music, Food Studies and Languages.
Only one woman in senior leadership.
Fast forward five years and there is now nine female staff under 30, four women in middle management, including Physical Education and a new woman in senior leadership.
Just the one.
Statistically, women dominate my profession but I would like to see more female principals, curriculum leaders and policymakers. There is a place for women in boys’ schools and I was delighted to see Adeline Blair become the first female principal at Kelston Boys’ High School, a move labelled “progressive”. Last year 55 percent of primary, and only 33 percent of secondary, principals were women. The numbers are rising and I think this is reflective of the changing tide in society today.
I am proud the young men I teach know I am a feminist, feel comfortable to ask me questions and understand the meaning of the word is not “man-hating, unshaven armpit, feminazi”. A real feminist should be just as concerned about toxic masculinity as they are about the wage gap. My students are respectful, understanding and always curious about the “female experience”. It is particularly motivating to see the passion the next generation of men have for social justice and equality.
Despite the negative press recently, I strongly encourage more young women to consider teaching in boys schools. We have a place at the table. The next generation of young men needs us and our unique perspectives. I consider my role to be a privilege, teaching future husbands, partners and fathers. Building empathy, encouraging open dialogue, challenging unconscious bias. Oh, and insisting they use the correct terminology for female body parts.I mean if you can draw an anatomically correct penis on virtually any surface, you should be able to say vulva with a straight face.
Managing a large amount of testosterone in a small space is not for the faint-hearted. But I love my job, I adore my boys and it is a privilege to be their “Miss”.