I have had the opportunity to work this year with the wonderful staff at Laura Jeffrey Academy, a girl-focused charter school in Saint Paul, MN.
I’m still undecided on the larger questions surrounding charter schools and their relationships to public schools and public K-12 funding, so I am in no way interested in picking up that thread of discussion here.
Instead, I want to reflect on my experiences in this setting-an urban, girl-focused, open-admission middle school.
This week, I spent my first full day at the school with school in session. I had worked with the math teachers over the summer, but students are really an abstraction when we’re talking about teaching in the summertime.
As I observed a couple of classes in the morning, I was reminded of some age-old questions in mathematics teaching and learning. In particular…
Do girls like math?
But spend a few hours in a Laura Jeffrey math class and it becomes obvious that these are ridiculous questions not worth wasting time with.
When you get rid of the boys, you still have just as much variation in attitudes, interests, predispositions, etc. with respect to math (and pretty much everything else) that you would in your standard mixed-gender classroom.
Of course, right?
But it is so easy to put students into categories and make blanket claims about all students in each category. Get rid of one of the two categories, though? Now we realize what a crappy way this was to categorize kids in the first place-especially if we’re trying to understand their interests, motivations and goals.
Thanks Laura Jeffrey staff and students for the reality check.
It was a pleasure and I look forward to our future work together.