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Ask an Expert: Gender imbalance in the classroom

Educator Amy Turino addresses a mother’s concern about the fact her daughter is among nine girls in a third-grade classroom with 19 boys.

Q. My daughter is a third-grader this school year. She is one of nine girls in the class that has 19 boys. The other third-grade classroom is more gender-equal.

My daughter is very upset and so am I. What should I do? She is pretty shy and small for her age too.

A. Here are more questions to consider with possible solutions.

1. How long has school been in session?

Moving classrooms six weeks into the school year wreaks more havoc then it reaps rewards.

Most schools do try to evaluate gender balance when making class lists. However, it looks like all of third grade is askew if the other class is close to balanced and your daughter’s class has nine.

Could they have done better between the two classes? Of course. However, both classes would then be out of whack.

2. Do you have time to volunteer?

Problem-solving the solution, as a mother you set a role as leader in your daughter’s life. If you are available to volunteer, you could propose a girls’ group to the teacher that you could work with once a week.

This would provide the girls an outlet from the constant gender discrepancy of boys in their class and give them a chance to converse and become closer.

3. How is the routine of the classroom set up?

If the teacher does a lot of small group and differentiated work rather than whole class lecturing, having the gender imbalance shouldn’t be too much of an issue, because the teacher should be taking into consideration everyone’s individual needs for differentiating anyway.

A child’s gender shouldn’t play a role in the quality of education he or she is getting. So on this individual level, the nine girls will get just as much opportunity as the boys, etc.

I guess the real question comes from understanding. Why are you so upset about having only nine girls – is it academic, social/emotional or other? There are so many things at play it can be difficult to answer or help you choose a path without knowing the desired outcome.

Let us know how things are going.

Image courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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