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Today's word on journalism

Monday, January 29, 2007

Words as weapons:

"When he had a pen in his hand it was like giving a kid a machine gun."

--Peter Hall, theater director, on "Angry Young Man" playwright John Osborne (1929-1994)

Teachers' gender affects connection to students, experts say

By Kristalee Bird

December 15, 2006 | We all learn from them, male or female, but does the gender of a teacher really affect the way students learn?

"When girls are taught by women and boys are taught by men, student achievement in science, English and social studies increases for both groups," stated the U.S. Department of Education survey.

Rachelle Tuttle, a 21-year-old Utah State University student, just finished student teaching at Lincoln Elementary School in Hyrum. Tuttle recalled her own findings that support a stronger relationship between a female teacher and female students than a female teacher and male students.

"My girls definitely connected better to me," said Tuttle, "They would listen better and were more willing to talk to me whereas the boys were difficult to have a conversation with."

Students' perception of male and female teachers could relate to their willingness to be taught.

Tuttle said her students perceived male teachers as strict. Of her students she said, "As far as discipline, they were more scared of the male teachers."

However, Tuttle also stated that students with male teachers "work harder because there's not so much of the classroom management that the teacher has to deal with. They're more on top of things and get things done faster."

Stanford University Associate Professor of Economics Thomas Dee, in a research study called The Why Chromosome, said, "Teacher's gender does have large effects on student test performance, teacher perceptions of students, and students' engagement with academic material."

For example, Kevin Krogh, USU professor of languages, philosophy and speech communication, said in an interview that after a review of his teaching skills that he works on improving equality in his classroom.

"I tend to call on the male students more," Krogh said, "but I tend to respond more positively and completely to the female students."

On the same lines, Tuttle told reporters that she calls on females more in her class.

This matter is important because of a push to change mixed-sex classrooms to single-sex classrooms in all levels of education.

Dee explained that amendment to the No Child Left Behind Act authorizing the creation of single-sex public schools was sponsored by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, but the measure passed in large part due to the support of Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.

Schools offering gender-separate educational opportunities have gone from four in 1998 to 223 in 2006.

This creates a problem with the number of female vs. male teachers in the school districts. Tuttle said only 20 percent of the teachers at Lincoln Elementary are men. If this amendment's impact spreads to Utah, the state could face larger classes with not as many personal student-teacher time and trouble finding male teachers to make the needs for teachers in lower education school.

Tuttle believes that due to the pay of teachers, less male students want to teach unless they are able to teach at a university. The pay would be the culprit. "I think most teachers have a second income some how," she said.

Male teachers are needed to bring a variety to learning and set a good role model for young boys. "Guys can just connect to [students] in a different way and bring out different sides of children or teach differently. Students need a variety of teaching so they benefit from that," said Tuttle.


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