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Werklund School of Education to host masculinities and gender justice in schools event

By Dianne Miranda, March 6 2024—

Teaching for Gender Justice with Boys and Young Men: Pedagogies of Possibility is an upcoming free event happening on Mar. 14 hosted by Dr. Michael Kehler and Dr. Gabriel Knott-Fayle from the U of C’s Werklund School of Education with Dr. Amanda Keddie from Deakin University in Australia. 

In an interview with the Gauntlet, research professor Kehler stated that this event is prompted by some work that he has been doing alongside Knott-Fayle with local schools where there have been concerns about misogyny spread through social media. With Keddie’s parallel work, the researchers work together to encourage youth to be active allies in disrupting misogyny in their daily school interactions. They also challenge boys and men to be reflective and thoughtful about how they interact with others and not simply follow the rules of masculinity — not simply accept the norms as just the way boys are.

“Myself and my colleague Dr. Knott-Fayle [were] working with the schools to try, engage and work with boys and all students, however they identify, to help them talk about what the issues are and to identify ways in which they experience gender interactions within and among themselves as adolescents,” said Kehler. “These teachers were struggling to address misogyny, homophobia and transphobia. That prompted me to consider how [we can] have a more public dialogue around engaging boys and men and what are the possibilities in terms of how we teach.”

“This conversation that we want to have on March 14 draws attention to some of the behaviours and attitudes, and in the same breath, invites us to reconsider what we can do with boys and how we might change those attitudes and behaviours,” said Kehler. “So, what does that mean for us as teachers? What does that mean for us as parents and how [we can] support boys so that they can be more engaged, more thoughtful both in school and outside of school?”

Kehler hopes that this event will prompt the audience and researchers to consider the ways we acknowledge gender within the school setting and the ways we can be supportive, especially given the current social and political climate.

“How can we, as teachers, be that supportive educator that youth need? [This] doesn’t happen naturally, we need to nurture relationships with students and schools at all levels. We also need to pay particular attention to behaviour and attitude that have historically just been accepted as the way it is in schools.” 

Kehler states that what he sees to be the most pressing issue regarding gender in education today is the choice of either addressing or leaving masculinities intact and the ways of being boys in schools. Oftentimes, ways of being are left unquestioned and unchallenged. 

“Our research shows that in fact, if you provide students with the support, care and attention and engage them in thoughtful ways as teachers, you can shift the learning culture in your classrooms,” he said. “That will go a long way to increasing student achievement.”

For U of C students, specifically teacher education students interested in attending this event, Kehler states that this conversation can help them to think differently about the kind of practice they use when they’re teaching and it will lodge some of those assumptions about boys being boys. 

Kehler with team member Chris Borduas received a grant supported by the Scholarship on Teaching and Learning (SOTL) for a project titled, Schooling masculinities in teacher education: Disruptive practices, transformative pedagogies in gender and education. 

“We will draw from some of our research that shows some of the struggles for practicing beginning teachers when they go out and try to bridge the theory to practice. So, in terms of the impact, I think this conversation will allow practicing teachers and students at Werklund and beyond to take a second look at the behaviours that they see around them among the boys,” said Kehler. 

This event is an invitation to dialogue about adolescent boys, masculinity more broadly, education and what that can provide in terms of challenging the issues intersecting with misogyny, gender-based violence and homophobia. It is an opportunity to open up the conversations with all three scholars. 

To learn more about Masculinities Studies in Education, visit the Werklund School of Education’s website. Register for the Teaching for Gender Justice with Boys and Young Men: Pedagogies of Possibility happening on Mar. 14 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. here

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