Spent Saturday and all day today at a Literacy Exchange at our school. We are working with Singapore American School and The Jakarta Intercultural School to compare our experiences with the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Program.
But what I found most fascinating, and the big idea behind this post was- who spoke the most, when and how often. The majority of the participants were women. I would say about 90%. I noticed because there were very few men in the room and it felt a bit strange.
However, despite the lack of numbers the men seemed to always speak first, whether it was at small tables or in whole class sessions when the facilitators were eliciting information.
After I realized that I too was always one of the first people to speak, I tried a little experiment- I would resist the urge to speak first. I am not sure if this is a gender thing or just a personality issue, but I noticed that when I resisted the urge to always jump in, the other members in my group, mostly women spoke more often. It helped the flow of conversation when I listened more often.
And as I resisted the urge to always talk first and became a better listener, I began to notice how often the rest of the men in the room filled the silences and spoke at length sharing their ideas. Two questions arose for me:
- Why do men feel the need to be heard so forcefully and so often?
- Why do women tend to wait until the moment is right?
Creative Common Image by KeithBurtis
The implications are two fold, I suppose. Firstly, how often does this gender domination happen in our classrooms? How often are boys encouraged or allowed to speak their minds, (Even when they don’t really have anything to say), while girls hold back and wait their turn? How often do boys feel the need to fill silences and be heard, when it might be best for the group if they simple waited to speak and listened more?
Secondly, as men on staff in schools, how aware are we of our desire to be heard, to fill silences, and to interrupt? I have been very cognizant of my role on my team this year, and I have been making an effort not to do those thing, even thought they feel so natural.
Is my need to talk so often at the expense of others part of my personality or does it have something to do with how men are taught and encouraged to be dominate?
I would encourage any men reading this post to listen more and talk less and see how your interactions, in groups where women are present, change. It was eye opening for me. And for the women reading this post, am I right about this? Or are you constantly waiting for the dude at your table to shut up so you can speak or do you jump right in? I am curious about your thoughts on the questions I have raised.