Friday, March 21, 2014

UN Assembly: Men only

I'd like to share a little cultural moment that happened while teaching my fifth graders today.  One of their textbook activities was a "Project" where they were in a UN General Assembly.  Their target language this unit includes "Where are you from?" and "I'm from ~." or "He/She's from ~."  So you can see below the blanks they needed to fill in. (It might look easy, but numerous kids in each class wrote absolutely nothing on the page...)

There were five flag stickers in the back of the book that they could choose from to create two other delegates (in addition to themselves).  The flag stickers were flags from America, Korea, Japan, Brazil, and Canada.

Where are you from project in English textbook from Korea

So then my 5th/4th co-teacher (a male) started to write some common first names from various countries on the chalkboard while talking to the class in Korean, to help them name their delegates.  For Brazil he wrote "Mario" and "Pablo" on the board.  For America/Canada he wrote "John" and "Matt".

All I could focus on was the fact that he was only giving the students male names to choose from.  So I jumped in and added "Or Hannah or Sarah" for the American/Canadian category.  My co-teacher said to me in a surprised tone, "Oh, you have female delegates? Really?" and then addressed the class in Korean, telling them (I'm pretty sure) that in the USA they can have a female delegate.

It really took me by surprise, that he assumed all of the UN delegates would be male.  Even though the majority are currently male, I would never only offer one gender to choose from for this activity.  But also, look at the example in the book: Anna, a female!

So it got me thinking about the differences between my co-teacher's upbringing and my own.  What caused the assumption? Was it because of gender roles in Korean society?  But Korea's current president is a woman!  Yes, she's the first woman to serve as president in Korea, but that's more than the USA can say.  Did it matter that my teacher was male?  Would my female co-teacher have done the same?  I don't have an answer, but it was an interaction that gave me another glimpse of life through a Korean's eyes.  Another piece to the puzzle, an instance to ponder further.
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  1. Relevant:

  2. Oh man, I also just taught this lesson. Knowing many of my students would have no idea what the UN even was, I opened the class with a short intro of what they [try to] do. Then, I used names/pictures/flags of the actual permanent delegates to prompt the target sentence for review (She/He is from...). The kids got a huge kick out of hearing me pronounce all the unique names, btw. But, you know what, in all the countries that the book has focused on for this chapter, there was only ONE female delegate, from the US (Samantha Power). It made me a little proud, and a lot sad.

    1. Ah, that was a great idea - to show actual delegates! Yeah, it's far from the ideal gender ratio -- but I'm so glad we do have a female delegate to be proud of.