Ban Bossy?

When I create a presentation about the topics of math discourse or collaborative learning, I usually include a slide about, what I call, "kind reminders."

In my classroom, I expect groups to handle minor issues as a group. If someone isn't contributing or if they are being annoying (I teach middle school, so this comes up often!), I want them to address the group member in a respectful way. I believe this helps students have ownership over their group, find ways to resolve conflict, and it also frees me up, as a teacher, to help groups with the math instead of having to address misbehaviors.

The slide that I made to share with students is a t-chart showing what group members should address and what I will address. I recently edited the slide with a line to cross out the word bossy. The slide now looks like this:

So, why did I cross out the word "bossy"???

I've been doing some thinking about this lately after reading a few things that show that most often the term "bossy" is used to describe girls. In fact, I came across a website dedicated to banning the term:

When I realized that, not only was I using the word bossy, I also included it in my prevention, I felt a little embarrassed. My presentations have been downloaded and viewed by lots of people. Ugh.

But then I did a little reading online about backlash to the #banbossy campaign. The article describing the problem with banning bossy explains that being bossy is not a leadership quality and if you are told you are being bossy, that is some feedback you should take into consideration.

So I see both sides. Should I "ban bossy" or should I embrace it??!! As with many things with social and emotional learning issues, people have some strong opinions and I want to be sure I am using best practice that make my students feel the most empowered and inspired they can, no matter their gender, background, family income, etc!

So, I decided that I wasn't going to just simply delete the word from the slide. I wanted to make a point of explaining to future workshop participants why the word was crossed out. I'm using it as an opportunity to bring up both sides of this issue. Because while I think the idea of #banbossy was to get teachers to realize the bias that we can put into our classroom with our words and actions, the backlash proves that it can't just be about getting rid of one word.

While I might not go as far as to "ban bossy," I did decide to remove it from my t-chart. My decision is about being aware, reflective, and intentional in our teaching... now that's a movement I can get behind!


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