Yesterday I helped coach my school's year 5 soccer team at a fun day. The teams were mixed - boys and girls - with every team needing to have at least 2 girls on the field at all times. Over the course of the day, I was at times dismayed and impressed by the interactions between the boys and the girls. Some boys were trying to include the girls, and to their credit, the girls were working hard. But more often than not, the girls would be tentative, and the boys would just charge on by.
Whenever I've seen girls play together, I haven't (always) seen this tentativeness (I'm not going to call it timidness because that's not what it was). After some reflection and discussion with some mothers who were there, it seemed obvious what the problem was/is: the boys have their own misconceptions about what the girls can offer to the team. What got to me even more was that the girls seemed to accept not being involved in the games as much.
So I decided to try something. I told my year 5 team (at the beginning of the last game they played) that if one of the girls scored, I would get them some sort of food treat. The team immediately started trying to help each other get better at passing and scoring. When the game started, the boys were trying to involve the girls more and it did (rather quickly I should add) lead to one of the girls scoring. I was happy that this led to a small success.
I wonder though, was this just making the problem worse? Is me offering this incentive saying to the children (both the boys and girls) that I don't think the girls could score on their own? Is this a means to an end? I was thinking that if they managed to get a goal, then the boys would see the girls as equals and not just run past them without passing. The mothers there seemed to think it was a good idea when I asked that question, but I'm not completely convinced.
I do need to figure out (and quick) what I'm going to share with the children, but I am wondering if anyone has any advice or opinions. I'm very aware of these issues in schools and gender roles that seem to drive a lot of what students do (i.e. boys are good at sports, girls are good at reading, etc) and want to do what I can for all of my students so they are not limited by what "society" says they should like and do. I think that starts with young children, but I'm not always sure I'm helping.