Women in Education

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Book Reviews

November 20, 2018

At the End of Holyrood Lane
by Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston, EK, 2018.

This picture book deals with the trauma of domestic violence. It is a story about a sometimes delightfully happy child and at other times a highly anxious and fearful child. Why the change? Because without warning, home at the end of Holyrood Lane, becomes violent and dangerous.

Author Dimity Powell and illustrator Nicky Johnston use the metaphor of a malevolent and dangerous brooding storm to deal with the sensitive issue of domestic violence.

This insightful book is an important book for politicians to read because their decisions have huge ramifications on the lives of society’s most vulnerable — its children.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, Particular Books, 2016.

This book celebrates the lives of more than 100 extraordinary girls and women in history and contemporary life who have changed the world. The short biographies inspire girls and women to be their own super hero, rather than position themselves as princesses waiting to be saved or loved by a man.

This book celebrates women who dare to be different; who dare to follow their dreams; who dare find their own voice; who dare to rebel against a world that tells them pay deference to a power elite that has different body parts.

The women in this book come from diverse backgrounds, countries and times. They are courageous, hardworking, exciting, brilliant, persistent and determined. Often they have never been heard of. My favourite woman, for the moment, is Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) who has been described as the most famous woman who ever lived, and was an outstanding naturalist, artist, adventurer, entomologist, ecologist and recognised the process of metamorphosis long before anyone else did.

This book is sure to inspire young readers. I had wonderful opportunity to lend this book to a year 7 student at a rural public high school who gave the following feedback: “This book goes to prove that you can do anything you put your mind to and that nobody can tell you what you can and cannot do. All girls should remember that if it is a good idea, go ahead and do it.”

Women and Power: A Manifesto
by Mary Beard, Profile Books, 2017.

This brilliant short book highlights the history of misogyny that goes back to ancient Greece and Roman days.

Renowned British classicist Mary Beard carefully unpacks the deep prejudices embedded in our contemporary culture and how it continues to diminish and erode the status of women as beings of authority, respect and power. Mary Beard shows how the poison of patriarchy reprehensibly entrenches violence and discrimination against women. Women’s voices in the public arena are more than often systematically dismissed, diminished, and devalued. Mary Beard’s basic premise is that our mental, cultural template for a powerful person remains resolutely male. Possibly the reason we are on the cusp of destroying the planet.

The real cost of this patriarchy is that many women’s voices of intellect, knowledge, and understanding are devalued as weak, emotional and not seriously worthy of consideration. One wonders how many talented women have been bypassed or overshadowed by a mediocre man.

Mary Beard shows how women in politics are particularly vulnerable to be threatened with verbal and even actual violence if they speak out too loud, through social media.

Finally Mary Beard concludes — it is not women, that must change, but the nature of power.

All three books are all available from Federation Library. Look up suggestions for classroom activities in the digital edition of Education.

Janine Kitson is a Federation Life Member

Gender Diversity and Non-Binary Inclusion in the Workplace: The Essential Guide for Employers
by Sarah Gibson and J. Fernandez — Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2018

This books guides readers through the process of making organisations inclusive of non-binary people and while it is aimed at people with responsibilities for equality and inclusion within the workplace, it has information and tools that anyone can utilise.

The book provides an understanding of the issue non-binary people face in society at large, and in the workplace. It begins with introducing the basics of who non-binary people are and what daily life is like for them. The book then moves into considerations for why an organisation or workplace should be inclusive of non-binary people and how this can be achieved.

While the book does not provide templates for policies and processes, it does introduce some basic premises about inclusion and non-binary people, discusses why inclusion is beneficial, provides a snapshot of the current knowledge and key issues and (UK) legislation, and offers practical pointers on where to start change.

The book is a great overview for those who are faced with a new area to learn about in order to be inclusive in their work environment that can be broadened to organisational practices generally (such as schools). It also provides practical steps for those who might be understanding of non-binary issues but not know where to start to be more inclusive.

Mel Smith is the Officer attached to the LGBTIQ Special Interest Group


At the End of Holyrood Lane
English K-10
Stage 1
Expressing Themselves
A student responds to and composes a range of texts about familiar aspects of the world and their own experiences. EN1-11D

Small group/pair discussion:

  1. How do you feel during a storm?
  2. How do you feel when a storm passes?
  3. How did Flick find peace?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Play a simple musical chairs drama game to focus on unpredictability – music plays and children walk around a circle of chairs. When the music stops they run to find a chair to sit on. With each stopping of the music one chair is removed. Children who do not find chair are out of the game.
  2. Create a dance or artwork or story that describes the unpredictability of a storm, followed by a beautiful day.
  3. Write about how Flick feels after the storm has gone.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
Stage 4
A student: identifies, considers and appreciates cultural expressions in texts

Small group/pair discussion:

  1. Which girls or women in the book did you already know about? Not know about?
  2. Which woman did you admire most?
  3. Which was your favourite portrait of a woman? Why does it appeal to you?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Complete the activities suggested at the back of the book: Write your own story and draw your own portrait.
  2. Role play a woman from the book for a ‘Who am I?’ performance. The audience guess who you are.
  3. Invite a rebel woman into your school to interview and write up her biography.

Women and Power
Modern History:
Year 11
A8: Women’s Movement
A relevant historical debate or issue: How history has treated powerful women

Small group/pair discussion:

  1. What ideas that author Mary Beard puts forward that resonated with you?
  2. Discuss the treatment of women in politics today. How are they similar or different to what Mary Beard says?
  3. Why are Mary Beard’s ideas about the treatment of women so important?

Suggestions for learning activities:

  1. Investigate more the examples from the classical world that Mary Beard uses to build her argument that the template of misogyny was developed in the ancient world and continues to this day.
  2. Prepare a set of questions based on the issues Mary Beard raises. Send these questions into a woman politician inviting her to visit your class to discuss the issues raised by Mary Beard.
  3. Write a letter to Mary Beard telling her about the visit by the woman politician and what you learnt from her book.

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© New South Wales Teachers Federation. All Rights Reserved.

Authorised by John Dixon, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation, 23-33 Mary St. Surry Hills NSW 2010

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