Academic journal article Childhood Education

Do's and Don'ts for Eliminating Hidden Bias

Academic journal article Childhood Education

Do's and Don'ts for Eliminating Hidden Bias

Article excerpt

As children arrive in Ms. Sanchez s classroom, she greets each one and collects their homework. Margie enters the class and hands Ms. Sanchez her homework.

"Thank you, Margie," says Ms. Sanchez. "You always bring your homework back on time - and what neat handwriting!" Margie beams with pride.

Rick enters with his homework. Glancing over his paper, Ms. Sanchez comments, "Good, Rick. It looks like you've got them all right again! I think math is one of your best subjects." Rick chooses to work on an enrichment math worksheet while waiting for class to begin.

As Ms. Sanchez collects the children's field trip forms, Elaine approaches her and begins to discuss her lost cat. Ms. Sanchez listens intently, but soon Matthew arrives at her desk. At first he waits, but then begins to jump up and down on one foot. He walks between Elaine and Ms. Sanchez and begins explaining about his lost field trip form. In an effort to address this problem, Ms. Sanchez tells Elaine to return to her seat and asks Matthew where he thinks his form might be.

Once the morning tasks are completed, Ms. Sanchez begins the class with a discussion about the field trip. "What have we already learned about the fire station?" she asks. Carmen raises her hand and Ms. Sanchez calls on her. "We're going to one tomorrow, "she says.

Ms. Sanchez: "Okay. Carlos?"

Carlos: "We will see firemen there."

Ms. Sanchez: "Right. And what is their job, Carlos?"

Carlos: "They stay there in case there is afire and they have to put it out."

Ms. Sanchez: "Very good. Since we know the firemen must stay at the fire station in case there is afire, what might we expect to see there?"

Several children raise their hands, but before Ms. Sanchez can call on someone, Elisa calls out: "We'll see things like in our house."

Ms. Sanchez: "Remember the rule. Wait until you're called on."

Michael raises his hand and is acknowledged: "We might see beds, and a kitchen."

Daniel calls out: "And a T. V. and Nintendo so the firemen have something to do while they're waiting to put out fires."

Ms. Sanchez: "That's right. We might see all those things."

Ms. Sanchez then directs children toward learning centers that reflect the fire station theme. Four boys rush to the block/manipulative center and begin cooperatively building afire station with Legos[TM].

Four other children enter the dramatic play area, which has been converted into afire station. The area has appropriate dress-up clothes and hats, and pictures of firemen in a variety of roles. As Constance pulls on the fire boots and hat, Romara says, "You can't wear those. Girls can't be firemen. You'll have to cook for us."

Ms. Sanchez's attention is pulled toward a loud discussion in the discovery center, where she resolves a disturbance between two boys. Then LaToya, frustrated and almost in tears, says, "I want my fire station to stand up but it keeps falling over." Ms. Sanchez sits down and works on the project as LaToya watches with relief.

An observer in this classroom might note that Ms. Sanchez seems to care about her students, and that she believes children learn by being involved. She greets each student at the door, plans field trips related to the current unit of study, uses a learning center approach that incorporates a variety of materials and activities, engages children in discussions and shows concern for their individual problems. Her concern is genuine and she appears to treat her students equally.

In the above scenario, however, Ms. Sanchez did not treat all students the same. She treated the boys in her classroom very differently from the way she treated the girls. The bias exhibited was so subtle that most teachers and other adults would not easily recognize it. That is why gender bias has been labeled "the hidden bias."

More than 20 years of research on teachers' interactions with children show that teachers do treat girls and boys differently and that those differences have a startling effect on the children. …

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