Include Me Please

I walked into a classroom recently where the student-teacher I supervise for the university had made a sorting chart with the children.  On one side was the label NATURAL and on the other MANMADE.   In each section of the chart, the children had pasted appropriate items.  In the lesson I was observing, my student teacher was talking about community helpers and referred to them as firemen, policemen and garbage men.  

In our post-lesson conference I mentioned that MADE BY PEOPLE would have been a better chart heading than MANMADE  and that words like firefighters, police officers and sanitation workers were more inclusive than firemen, policemen and garbagemen.   Apparently, my student teacher’s exclusive language had already been pointed out by the regular classroom teacher and my student was a little embarrassed about unconsciously slipping back into using terminology that might send the wrong message to the girls in the class or children who may not be sure about their gender identity. In another class I visited, the student-teacher was leading a science lesson on the characteristics of animals.  Every single time an animal was mentioned she referred to it as ‘he’.  In the post-lesson conference I suggested that perhaps the word ‘she’ could have been used equally when referring to animals or a more neutral ‘it’ could have been used. The student agreed completely telling me how dedicated she was to feminist ideals. She thanked me for pointing out the exclusivity of her language.  

Language is a powerful thing and using exclusive language in even little ways sends a subtle message to some children that they aren’t included.  We’ve come a long way since my childhood when exclusively male language was the norm but there is still reason to be vigilant about trying to raise a new generation for whom the use of inclusive language is a natural thing. 

Other posts……….

I Remember When……..

Proud of the New Words to Canada’s National Anthem

From Pale and Weak to Platoon Commander



Filed under Education

3 responses to “Include Me Please

  1. Katie

    I am sensitive to this as well. When I was a naturalist intern at a National Park, my supervisor called all animals “she” unless they were known to be male. I like to do this, too. In our church the pastors never refer to God as “he,” which I appreciate, though it does lead to contrived-sounding language sometimes. Also on Mother’s Day a church choral ensemble sang “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and throughout the entire song referred to the Lord as “she.” It was very moving.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing those stories Katie. I think changes are happening. I work at an art gallery and had a tendency to refer to animals in sculptures and paintings as ‘he’ until students on my tours began to point this out to me and realized how exclusive I was actually being and so now I am passing on my own learning to my university students.


  2. gabe

    Yes, we must be vigilant, but we’re moving in the right direction. When I was little, for some reason… I thought cats were girls and dogs were boys. 😦


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