Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stickers and Gender

Guest-post from C.Ewing today:

So, I've been tutoring in a fourth grade class. The kids get stickers as they do their work, do chores in class, etc. At the beginning of the new week (usually Monday) they get a reward for having earned the most stickers. Positive reinforcement at work. But that's not the issue. The issue I have is that the boy with the most stickers and the girl with the most stickers are the two who get rewards.

And I'm wondering: why?

Now, it just so happens that in this particular case (the first I've seen) the boy and girl had precisely the same number of stickers. So the boy and girl in question were both on equal footing. If the two in class with the most stickers had been the ones getting prizes it would have worked out to be the same two people. There are more girls in the class. The ratio is actually about 2:1 in this particular class. There is thus more competition for the girls and less for the boys. That seems odd to me, since I would think it would be best just to have the class compete as a whole.

We've discussed gender interaction in schools on this blog before. I admit my staggering inexperience in this field. I've tutored before, but I've never done so in the classroom until now, and I've never done so with children until now. Is there an issue I'm missing here, which makes this make sense? I'm just not getting why the division. Granted, they're fourth graders, and maybe things are different with kids, but I don't see why or how.

If you're going to do the top two, I don't see why there's a gender division. Why top boy and top girl? Why no just the two with the most? There are more girls in the class. But wouldn't it just make the boys work harder so that at least one boy wins? Couldn't it beneficial in some way to have the boys and girls actually compete with one another? Is it just so that a boy and a girl will always win? What purpose does that serve? You just don't want to allow that one gender might not be represented?

Maybe I'm not looking at this right, but it seems odd to me, and possibly just outright wrong. Can anyone shed some light on this to help me make sense of it?