Gender Confusion

As I may have mentioned before, my full-time job nowadays is working as a substitute teacher for the school system where I live. I’ve decided to write more about my experiences in other people’s classrooms, because there’s definitely some amusement value there. I shall begin this endeavor with today’s post, about my experience as a 6th grade math teacher.

Today, my adventures as a substitute teacher landed me for 1/2 a day in a 6th grade math classroom. I came in around 10:45 and spoke to the regular teacher about what I was supposed to be doing. Since this was her planning time, there were no students in the room yet, so I took the extra 10-15 minutes I had before 5th period to go over her notes and identify all the worksheets and activities I would need for the lessons. Fifth period went smoothly, and while 6th period was significantly more talkative, that class went ok too. Then 7th period came in. These were the advanced kids, so I was expecting them to be quieter and well-behaved, but they had other plans. We were going over the homework and a student in the back raised their hand to ask me a question. I was having trouble hearing the student over the noise of their fellow classmates, so I raised my voice and said “Guys, one of your classmates asked a question, and you’re being so loud I can’t even hear him! Stop talking and listen!” At this point every kid in the class says “She’s a girl! Her name’s Brooke!”* I thought they were referring to the student in front of the one who asked the question, and I said, “No, I was talking about the boy in the back in the red shirt,” to which they all responded “Yeah. She’s a girl.” I could have died. Mentally I was cursing the floor for not swallowing me up. I was so embarrassed, and I apologized to my androgynous student, and tried to move on with the class, but the students continued to giggle and whisper about this for the rest of the class. Fortunately we were near the end of the period, so we only had about 10 minutes left.

In my defense, this student LOOKED and SOUNDED like a (6th grade) boy. She had short, curly red hair and was wearing a red Fox Racing shirt and somewhat-skinny jeans (all kids wear those kind of jeans, regardless of gender), and she had a black Under Armour backpack. Her voice was not particuarly feminine and girly-sounding. And, since these kids were in 6th grade, there were no, shall we say, “physical developments” that would lead me to believe I was speaking to a girl. To make matters worse, the class role I had was outdated and she wasn’t listed on it, so I hadn’t called her name at the beginning of class. Had I done that, I might have remembered that her name was Brooke and could have potentially avoided some embarrassment for myself and this student. Though, as someone married to a man named Lindsay, I know firsthand that names can be androgynous, too.

*Name changed

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