Wednesday, November 23, 2005

All Talk

My ulpan class has about 20 students. There are just two male students - me and another guy from South Carolina of all places!

I am interested in the dynamics of educational environments. One of the things I have been observing in ulpan is how much the women in the class talk compared to the two men. I haven't been keeping an exact record, just informal observations. I don't have the data to prove my hunch, but I think that the percentage of time that men are speaking in class is not proportionate to the number of men. The male students speak more than 10% of the time dedicated to class discussion. There are some female students that never speak in class unless called on.

Many researchers have considered the reasons for this - that men are more socialized from an early age to speak out and that women are taught to be quiet, men make eye contact with the teacher and are more likely to be called on whereas women don't, men and women have different learning styles and it's reflected in classroom behavior, boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails - it goes on and on.

Now that I have noticed this am I obligated to alter my behavior to open "conversation space" for the women in the class? Should I shut up more - even if there is silence in the classroom - to give time for women to contribute? Don't get me wrong; I am definitely not blabbing away all of the time and jumping ahead of everyone to offer my thoughts. One of my issues is that having been a teacher, I feel compelled to contribute when the teacher poses a question to the class - I can't just let her die up there as the angel of silence floats over the classroom. Sometimes a brave soul may be needed to break the ice and start the conversation. But should it be a male voice?

5 Comments:

At 11/23/2005 7:36 PM, Blogger Sam said...

I know how you feel. In my meetings, especially when I'm chairing them, the silence is deafening at times. I watch the clock and wait silently for at least 20 seconds, often 30, before I speak. Presented with ample time and if they have something to share, most people will speak when they see that they're not "preventing" someone else from sharing. It's a tough thing to sit quietly, especially when I know the answer or have something I really feel is relevant to share. meh...

 
At 11/23/2005 7:41 PM, Blogger ontheface said...

If you don't mind going out on a limb a little, you could say something like, "Well, doesn't Rachel know a lot about that subject?" or "Jenny and I were talking about this subject during the break and she said something interesting..."

On the other hand, maybe you'd just embarrass them. Never mind, pretend I didn't say anything. ;)

 
At 11/23/2005 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry I can't come up with any good advice, but I did want to say that I can totally relate to you about being a teacher and having the "angel of silence" (I like that!) descend over the classroom. I think it's akin to being a comedian on stage, making a joke, and...NOTHING. Flop sweat and all. I'm sure your ulpan teacher appreciates it- as a teacher, I know I would!

 
At 11/23/2005 10:29 PM, Blogger Savtadotty said...

Here's some tough love advice: stick to your knitting...I mean your Hebrew. The more you practice speaking, whether in class or out, the more Hebrew you'll learn. Let the teacher manage the classroom...that's what you're paying her to do!

 
At 11/25/2005 1:18 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

I wouldn't worry about not speaking to allow someone else to speak. If you have something to contribute....then say it. Everyone is there to learn and there is enough going on in your studies to worry about other people. It would be different if I thought you were the type to hog conversation or step on peoples sentences to get your 2 cents in. But I know you and I know you're not like that. So, have no worries, say what you want. If the other people want to speak and don't...that's their problem.

Ok, I'm off my soap box now :)

 

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