Gender-based instruments? How to change the perceptions....

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Kate Hicks
Instructor
Gender-based instruments? How to change the perceptions....

Only boys play trumpets and girls play the flute! We've all heard this before, and have seen it---especially in band. Also, middle school choir classes are just full of girls, with a smattering of a few boys. What can we do as teachers to change this perception? As a flute teacher, I've seen more and more boys play the flute, which is fantastic. But, there still is a persistant perception of gender-based instruments. I've heard some boys quitting the flute in high school, only to switch to the trumpet or trombone. It would be interesting to hear other teachers' experiences and perceptions of this.

 

Warner Iveris
Instructor

Hi Katherine,

The guitar world is a bit male dominated as well.

I try to give my students plenty of excellent guitarists to listen to of both genders. I try to instill a team spirit, so that everyone is working together to learn and get better. I make the kids teach each other so that they interact and learn to appreciate what their peers do well. Basically I try to keep everyone focussed on getting better at the guitar, instead of competing with one another. I use school competitions as performance opportunities to learn from, rather than evaluations of their ability.

This tends to work and I generally have happy students and happy parents. If I do encounter a student who does want to try and compare girls and boys or bring others in the group down, I try to shut it down as soon as possible. I don’t let a negative comment go unanswered even once because even innocuous comments can create distance or make other students feel isolated.

When I reprimand a student for a negative comment, I do it in a firm but dispassionate way and move on. I simply tell them we don’t talk that way in this class and move on. Usually they will stop, but sometimes it takes a few reminders.

I’d love to hear what others do to promote more gender balance in their studios.

Kate Hicks
Instructor

Hi Warner,

Great advice and sounds like a win-win situation for everyone. I tell my students that my husband is also a flute player, and then I have the students take a look at orchestras performing. You can see at a glance that the m/f ratio is about 50-50. But----I haven't seen this with professional trumpets, so perhaps more gender education is needed?

Warner Iveris
Instructor

The question of more gender or diversity training or education is an interesting one.

Back in college, I remember dating someone who was a teaching assistant in an undergraduate Black Studies class. In this class the students had to read articles on their own and take a quiz on them in class to test their comprehension (just to be clear these quizzes were NOT asking for personal opinions). But it appeared that the students’ confirmation bias towards their previously held beliefs was so strong that after reading an article they would believe that the author had argued in favor of their own beliefs, regardless of what was actually written in the article. In some ways this makes sense; we all tend to filter new information through the lens of our previously held understanding of the world. It’s a shortcut that saves us a lot of time, but can prevent us from accepting new information that would undermine our worldview.

The strategies I outlined above are meant to bypass relying on old experiences or previously learned information, to give kids positive experiences learning from each other and working together. My hope is that these experiences will invalidate the prejudices that they will be exposed to from others later in life. I know it's probably a bit of wishful thinking, but I don't think it makes the situation worse!

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