The Christian Science Monitor has published an article about teachers using Malala lessons developed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), an EI affiliate, on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
On 8 March, all of teacher Tracy Lally’s sixth-graders stood up. Then she told the boys to sit. The girls counted off in threes, and she told all the “ones” to sit. “Sorry,” she said to the girls left standing, “You don’t get an education.”
The excluded girls feel appalled by the unfairness of the situation, pressing their teacher about why those sitting get an opportunity denied to them.
It was a dramatic introduction to the fact that in Pakistan – where Malala Yousafzai has become famous for persisting in her activism after being shot in the head by Taliban militiamen – only a third of girls have access to primary school.
Malala’s example to teach about the importance of girls’ education
Malala’s story is a springboard for discussions about the importance of women’s education, equality, and “how individuals, even at 12, can be activists”, said Lally, who teaches at Quest Elementary in Melbourne, Florida.
In honour of International Women’s Day on 8 March, the AFT promoted the Malala-centred lesson plan, which is posted at teachhumanrights.com. It also includes activities such as comparing Malala’s diaries to an 1851 speech by abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth.
In Lally’s class, students moved from their horror at the violence Malala faced to an eagerness to sign her petition supporting educational rights. They followed that up with discussions about ways they could improve their community.
Teaching the women’s fight for the right to vote
At Oscar DePriest Elementary in Chicago, a high-poverty school, Tammie Vinson used the Malala lesson with special education students in 7th and 8th grade when they were discussing the history of women’s fight for the right to vote. Malala’s story helped them to appreciate their education and “opened their view of the world”, Vinson says.
It also boosted their sense of perseverance, she says. “Some of the female students that I have are like, ‘Oh, I can’t do it, I can’t do it’. But to see someone who realised there were injustices and didn’t just give up, it will help them make a difference more in what goes on in their lives.”
In Isabel Morales’s social studies class at the Los Angeles School for the Arts, students study the women’s rights movement as one aspect of civil rights history – and link the lessons to modern-day issues.
Students are impressed by the fact that earlier generations of women couldn’t vote or own property, and that laws in recent decades have pushed for more rights in education and the workplace, Morales says. But “we also watch a documentary called ‘Miss Representation’, about the depiction of women in media and politics, and which shows how, despite all these legal advances, there is still a long way to go with regards to gender equality.”
Josephine De Castro, a senior in Morales’s class, could relate personally to that documentary, which touched on how girls are often socialised to think about beauty.
“When I was younger, I was pressured to be pretty and popular, but I always wanted to succeed educationally,” Josephine says. “This class is showing us how women can succeed and we are equal to men and there’s nothing holding us back.”
EI: Equal access for all
EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen reacted by stressing: “As the world marked International Women’s Day, we are glad to learn that colleagues, in the USA and the world over, developed innovative classroom lessons to talk about this significant event with their students. Quality education will not be achieved until we guarantee equal access to it for all.”
For more information, log on to the Share My Lesson resource bank, developed by the American Federation of Teachers and TES Connect, the largest network of teachers in the world.
The National Education Association, another EI national member organisation in the US, has also produced resources downloadable here
You can read the full article here