Friday, March 16, 2012

beautiful language

As a teacher, I am conscious, often, of the language I use with my kids. I teach children in their first and second years of formal schooling, they are 5-7 years old, at a co-ed, government school. Our kids are fantastic.

I read an article while in University of the expectations we place on boys, and on girls. That girls should be 'good', and boys are more likely to be 'naughty' or 'rambunctious'. That girls will succeed if they are quiet, good, and follow the rules. These are the girls who do well at school.
This article also mentioned the language we use, particularly with girls.

I find this with myself, too. I think our kids are adorable, sweet, gorgeous children. When talking to the girls, I might say: "What's up, gorgeous?" "What's the matter, beautiful?", slipping into easy and friendly pet-names. 'That's such a beautiful drawing!" "You've made that painting look so pretty".
With boys, I use names. I might drop a 'honey', if the boy is sweet and familiar with me. Girls, more often than not, have names and comments that relate purely to a physical state of worth. I find it extremely difficult to break out of this mould- I love a pet-name, and when commenting on a drawing, you don't necessarily want to weigh down a prep child with descriptions of mode or form.

I have also caught myself, once or twice, making comments on my weight, that must no doubt reflect those self-esteem issues that are so present in so many women. A young child- completely innocently (I hope!) might poke me in the tummy, and say: "look at your tummy!" And I have said: "What?! What about my tummy?? I don't have a tummy!" Weight issues, manifest. Feeling awkward about my response, I grew conscious of it, and have not let my own insecurities be voiced in front of these children again.

There is so much engrained in us, teaching our girls to be pretty, quiet and complicit.

But I suppose saying "What're you up to, gorgeous girl?" just rolls off the tongue more easily than "What're you up to, clever girl?"

Maybe I need to give the latter a try.
I'll let you know how it goes.

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