If you don’t mind
A minute of your time
I’m no expert
Am I making sense?
These are examples of some of the words I use on a daily basis in my professional and personal life. I recently read a selection of emails I have sent over the past six months and was genuinely surprised at the language I used to represent myself to others.
I am a 31 year old professional woman. I’m a good teacher, a middle leader with a range of responsibilities and a feminist. Yet the language I use both in email and in day to day life doesn’t necessarily reflect this.
Why do I and so many other intelligent women do this? I imagine it’s in order to soften our communication to others, something a lifetime of conditioning has encouraged us to do. Media, tv, films and books teach us to do this. We are taught that softer communication means we will not be perceived as ‘the bitch’. We apologise before there is even anything to apologise for! It has made me wonder what message I am sending to the children in my classroom and around the school.
Many professional conversations on Twitter have taken place around using gendered language with the children we teach. Speaking from personal experience it’s made me aware of the language I use when communicating with the girls and boys in my class. However, do I put that much care into the language I use to represent myself as a woman?
At the moment the answer is a definitive ‘no’. I’m beginning to reflect on what the possible consequences of this are. Yes, I take care not to negatively gender the children directly but they are still experiencing gender bias through my general language. I want the children to see me as a strong human being. I want them to see me using language that shows I feel self-assured and confident in myself.
Of course when I am standing at the front of the class my children see that. One thing I feel confident in is my teaching ability. Do they see that when I’m talking to a colleague, to my headteacher? Does confidence shine through my language in the same way it might with a male colleague?
At the moment I’m not sure. So I’m going to be better. Moving forward I’m going to cut out the unsure language. If I’m talking to a fellow colleague at school I’m going to do so with certainty. I’m going to believe in the words that I speak without making excuses for them. I’m going to do that for the children I teach and, most importantly, for myself.