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Teachers: Greg Brenner (high school government), David Muhammad (high school international relations) and Rebeka McIntosh (K-5 alternative)

Teachers: Greg Brenner (high school government), David Muhammad (high school international relations) and Rebeka McIntosh (K-5 alternative)

The silencing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) during debate in the U.S. Senate over the (confirmation of Attorney General-nominee Jeff Sessions) led our teachers this week to consider how they view gender dynamics in schools and in their classrooms.

“I just find that whole incident [silencing Warren] deeply disappointing for my female students,” said Rebeka, who admits the actual news of Warren clashing with Republican leaders is not on her 4th grade students’ radar now. “But as their teacher, I wonder what it will mean for them as they move on and graduate.”

Our teachers noted instances when subtle (and not-so-subtle) attitudes towards gender creep into their work in schools. From something seemingly benign as saying, “Ladies, first,” when a girl and boy both want to answer a question, to something more culturally profound like the concept of marianismo Greg sees often displayed in the Hispanic students he teaches.

“It’s a very strong sense of what a woman should be, and part of that, say, is it doesn’t often allow girls to play sports. And we have a female soccer team, and we first started it, none of the girls had played organized sports,” Greg says. “I think it’s gotten better. But I still see female students all the time getting shifted over to that role of mothering, nurturer at home.”

Our teachers also tackled the ongoing debate over refugees. Educators may have a particular lens to bear on that discussion, as they try to teach values of empathy and compassion in their classrooms.

David says modern education, at times, can be so focused on personal achievement and progress that conversations of empathy can get sidetracked. “They often don’t see that they’re part of a larger community because everything is ‘funnel them through’. Everything becomes about the individual, their ACT scores, their tests, their GPA. Everything we teach is about the individual, not we have an issue, how can we work together to solve it.”

We wrapped up with a discussion about the Common Core, which seems on the doorstep of its long-predicted demise with the ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency and Betsy DeVos to the head of the Education Department.

If you care about education and want to hear what teachers think about the big issues of the day, subscribe and review our podcast at iTunes. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Send us comments and questions at our email:

Music used in this episode is Inspiring Corporate and Scottish Indie by Scott Holmes, Begrudge by Blue Dot Sessions; all have been edited.