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Mending Harmful Gender Norms in Your Classroom, with Maria Delaney

Mending Harmful Gender Norms in Your Classroom, with Maria Delaney

Welcome to Part Two of this discussion about toxic masculinity and respectful relationships. If you missed Part One, I strongly encourage you to go back and have a listen to that one first, it was released last week. If you’re listening at release time. The topics that we discussed in Part One lead directly into what we’re about to hear from Part Two.

In this episode of the podcast we discuss how to reflect on your own interpretations of gender norms, and give practical tips for setting your classroom and teaching up for success.

So please do go back and listen to that if you haven’t already done so, and as always love to hear your thoughts over on Facebook or Instagram at Staffroom Stories.

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Show Notes

These resources have been selected by Maria because they are evidence based, accessible, practical and energising, and they are also free and online. They support the development of understandings about the way narrow gender identity constructions constrain us all, and should be implemented with a whole school community approach. It is also crucial that this work is undertaken within a broader well-being and social justice framework, employing critical, creative and transformative pedagogies. We hope you will browse and be inspired to seek professional development and support to implement these resources.

The Man Box Project by Jesuit Social Services – A study on being a young man in Australia is the first comprehensive study that focuses on the attitudes to manhood and the behaviours of young Australian men aged 18 to 30.

Respectful Relationships Education by Our Watch A suite of resources for a whole school community approach.

F – 12 Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships by Victorian Department of Education and Training – Learning materials for teachers in primary and secondary schools to develop students’ social, emotional and positive relationship skills and reduce antisocial behaviours including engagement in gender-related violence.

Building Respectful Relationships – stepping out against gender-based violence by Victorian Department of Education and Training A package of resources to educate young people about the impact of gender-based violence which focuses on the key themes of gender, respect, violence and power, and includes a set of teaching and learning activities for delivery to students in Years 8 , 9 and 10.

R4Respect. Respectful Relationships Peer Education Guide by AnrowsA guide to support young people as peer educators in delivering respectful relationships education, to be used by community and youth organisations, schools and in other settings where young people can be mentored to promote understanding of what constitutes healthy, respectful relationships.

Expect Respect Education Toolkit by Women’s Aid, UK – An online toolkit containing a series of lesson plans for primary and secondary students plus supporting resources.

Stereotypes Stop You Doing Stuff: Challenging gender stereotypes through primary education by National Education Union – A report on how different schools look at the impact of gender stereotypes on children and how they could begin to unsettle some of the established assumptions about what girls and boys might like or do.

Boys’ Things and Girls’ Things?: Practical strategies for challenging gender stereotypical choices and behaviours in primary schools by National Education Union – To be read in conjunction with Stereotypes Stop You Doing Stuff, this booklet contains detailed examples of how staff worked to address gender stereotypes in primary classrooms and sections on adopting a whole school approach, toys, ambitions and jobs, sports and playtime, and creating and updating new resources.

It’s Child’s Play: Challenging gender stereotypes through reading by National Education Union – A booklet resource for teachers to use in class every day, plus more information on using children’s literature to challenge gender stereotypes.

THE LINE by Our Watch Practitioner and educator resources designed to support those who work with, and for, young people to promote positive, equal and respectful relationships.

Primary AGENDA: Supporting Children in Making Positive Relationships Matter by Cardiff University – An online guide with equality, diversity, children’s rights and social justice at its heart, and an inspiring range of activities and examples.

Manhood 2.0: A Curriculum Promoting a Gender-Equitable Future of Manhood by University of Pittsburg – A manual created for use by facilitators working to engage young men in gender equity, violence prevention, and creating healthier and more equitable relationships – includes a series of sessions to enable young men to reflect and build collective support for making positive, healthy changes in their lives.

STEPS to examine programs and approaches for schools by The National Safe and Supportive School Communities – A decision making tool to help schools select and develop evidence-based and sustainable approaches, programs and resources for bullying and violence prevention.


Emily:  Welcome back, Maria. Thank you so much for joining us again, to continue this conversation about masculinity and toxic masculinity. A term which last week we discussed is sort of characterized by harmful masculine practices, relating to dominance homophobia, compulsory heterosexuality, misogyny.

We also talked about the language use and perhaps we should steer away from the word toxic. And we also sort of talked about the need for compassionate reflection in this space and that this is not an attack of someone for being a man, this is more of a reflective lens on how these sorts of behaviours can be harmful to men themselves as well as to others.

So thank you so much for coming back again today to continue the conversation.

Maria Delaney: Oh, Thanks Emily. Thanks for having me back. And what a great summary. Thank you for that. Yes, you’re right, definitely not about blaming or shaming. Anybody I’m not about pointing fingers. It’s largely about understanding, you know, the unconscious biases that we have, not just around gender, but race, class, you know, neuro diversity. Understanding things like the learned behaviours, young people have from the kind of environments they grow up in and the way the media and society impacts that.

And the experience of trauma that a lot of young people have, particularly boys, because of the way that we expect boys to be less sensitive and often they might not be given as much affection and care. So, you know, there’s that kind of trauma and this kind of trauma that young, a lot of young people are experiencing in households where there’s a high prevalence of tension and domestic violence, unfortunately. So yes. Great to be talking about that again and talking about in terms of, as you say, not around toxicity or pointing fingers around at men as being poisonous in any way, but talking about in terms of what’s healthy and unhealthy for all of us and developing our identity or beliefs about relationships, about sexuality and about how to learn and grow and be together as a community, as a school community and in the wider community.

And now of course, this conversation about toxic masculinity, isn’t just about what’s happening in classrooms. It’s, it’s about our Australian culture in many ways, which is quite saturated. For example, you know, not so long ago in 1987 marital rape was still legal in Australia,

Emily: That’s insane to me. That’s two years before I was born.

Maria Delaney: yeah. That’s right. I mean, my mum had to give up work when she fell pregnant with me, you know the kind of thing. You know, so it’s in my lifetime, I’ve seen a lot of these changes and, unfortunately seeing a lot that hasn’t changed actually, and actually in some ways maybe even going backwards, but you know. Let’s talk about what’s healthy, what we want to see, what we can envision in terms of communities and relationships and young people, and being healthy and working together to proactively, I suppose and learning about ourselves and our own understandings and unconscious biases and behaviors, and working on that as the basis for working with our professional community and our students and their families and what the community.

Emily: Yeah, well, on that note, you had sent me a fantastic video that I’ll put the link to in the show notes for our listeners can go and watch it. So this was produced by the men’s project. And I am going to play it right now for us to hear. And I would love to hear your thoughts on this after the this little audio clip and how we can sort of move forward from here.

The Men’s Project asked 1000 Australian men aged 18 to 30, about the pressures to be a real man. The pressure to be tough, to be the breadwinner, always be in control and to have many sexual partners. It’s these rules that make up The Man Box, and there are more people in there than you might think we asked about these rules, two thirds of those surveyed. said they were taught a real man behaves a certain way. 47% believe they should act strong, even when scared or nervous. A third believe men should be the primary provider for their families and 37% believe they should not be upon his whereabouts at all times. Adhering to these rigid norms and stereotypes that make up The Man Box can be unhealthy and harmful.

Young men inside The Man Box are those who more strongly believe in The Man Box rules compared to young men who are outside of The Man Box. These young men report poorer mental health, and have a variety of behavioural issues that are harmful for them and others, particularly women. For example, 44% of those inside The Man Box reported suicidal thoughts in the previous two weeks compared to 22% of young men outside The Man Box. 47% perpetrated physical violence in the past month, compared to 7%. 46% made sexual comments to a woman or girl they did know, compared to 7% 31% get drunk once a month or more compared to 22%.

And finally 38% have been in a car accident in the past year, compared to 11% of those outside The Man Box. Improving the health and wellbeing of our boys and men requires action across our entire community, but it starts with each of us thinking about the expectations and attitudes and behaviours, that we communicate to our sons, brothers, mates, and partners.

Let’s all break free from the man box and give boys and men the freedom to be the person they want to be.

So there’s some very powerful statistics in there. To be quite honest, statistics that I wasn’t expecting to be that distinctly different between, you know, men who identify as being within that Man Box and men who identified as being outside that Box. So how do we move forward from that? How can we sort of prevent these things in the first place?

Maria Delaney: Yes it’s interesting though, isn’t it. Once you start to think about it and ask questions and, and ask your students, you know, how clear they are about the box that they’re supposed to fit in. So for example, when we did the respectful relationships education pilot, a few years ago, working with the one and twos, we started off with a little survey with the kids and sat down with them and they had to tick boxes, responding to what kind of toys and games and jobs they thought a boy or a girl, or a man or a woman would do. And it was very clear that the boys had a certain set of, and you might imagine what they were, action, focus, technological type of jobs. And the girls the same, you know, wanting to be nurses and teachers, playing with dolls and so forth.

So even though we think we’ve kind of broken open those boxes, actually, once you start talking to young people, they’re quite clear, even if personally they don’t want to be in that box, they know that they should conform to that box somehow in order to get along and be accepted and be normal and that kind of thing.

So, you know, starting to just be mindful and, and talking to young people. That’s where you come to realize how you can actually provide counterexamples and counter narratives in so many ways in the classroom. Just looking for example, jumping ahead to strategies a little bit, but you know, what’s in the library, what are in the books in your corner of your classroom?

What examples of types of masculinity and femininity, types of families, talks of race, gender, sexuality, all of those dimensions of difference and so forth are represented. But yes, going back to the suggestion and then reflecting on that really great little video, and recommend you pop online so you can actually look at the video presentation as well. It’s been a very effective program and I’ve worked with those folks. They do terrific work there from down in Victoria and, would would be very happy to come up and talk to you, actually, Emily I’m sure.

But this, uh, this idea of the boxes is something we need to challenge is binary idea of, you know, boys and girls are essentially somehow different and the way we unconsciously reinforced that and steer them in those different directions.

And if you just took a moment to reflect yourself, how, you know, from early childhood from babies, we, gender kinds of traditions and clothing for young people. I for goodness sake, you know, what are the gender reveal parties? What’s that about? You know, so great. We know it’s girl, so all of a sudden we know how we’re going to dress them and plan for their lives and behave towards them differently.

Emily: I never understood the parties. Like, are you going to be disappointed if it’s a boy instead of a girl, for example, like you going to show that disappointment in a party format.

It’s just a bit bizarre to me. Like I can kind of understand, wanting to know in terms of your own perceived ideas.

You know, if you have a baby girl, maybe you do want to have a pink bedroom, you know, you sort of allowing yourself to conform to those gender norms, but to have surprise reveal, I don’t know, personally, it’s something, it’s just something I never understood.

Maria Delaney: But that’s the, that’s a really great example because it’s the idea that suddenly your expectations or assumptions of a kind of child or relationship or future you’d have with them are being dashed, because if it’s a, you know, going to be a boy and you wanted a girl and you’re thinking, oh, I can’t take them to dancing and dress them in beautiful clothes.

Well, you know, what’s that saying about your gender norms and assumptions and the narrowness of what you might enable or provide for your child.

Emily: Yeah. And I’ve had to do a lot of work in that space, myself. Like I have a son and a daughter. And when we found out we were having a son first, like in my mind, I always wanted a boy first and yet I was profoundly disappointed that he wasn’t a girl and I couldn’t pinpoint like I still to this day have no idea why I was so disappointed.

And then when we found out we’re having a girl second, I was like, oh, I get to do all of these things with her. And then I’ve gone. No, hang on. I can still do all of those things with my son. You know, he, he does quite enjoy wearing dresses and there should be nothing wrong with that. But I think, you know, with this generational sort of, I don’t know if using the word trauma is the right thing here, but this generational trauma of these gender expectations in this extreme gender binary, it sneaks its way in and in ways that you don’t expect. And even in people that, you know, I would like to think of myself as quite progressive, but I really do struggle some days with the gender binary and how, you know, how I should be as a woman and a mother and how my husband should be as a father and how my children should be. But really it doesn’t matter.

Like I’m reinforcing all of these things inadvertently, but also not wanting to.

Maria Delaney: Well, we’re all a work in progress. Aren’t we such progress. And oh, and likewise, and I’ve been reflecting on this and doing this all my life, this work coming from a, as a child or family with domestic violence. And from my early career as a teacher, I taught for a year and went back to study and did a women’s studies degree and then went to work in the central office, in the Gender Equity Unit and, and went on to do , work on the Bullying No Way Project around, you know, the different dimensions of bullying and be in, it’s been my whole career in research and PD. And I just love it because as I just said the transformative potential and how it actually, when people start to click and, they learn. But it’s such an ongoing thing and I’m still learning, but it’s so interesting you say that on your son, just a quick story, because I felt the same on.

I wanted a girl when I first fell pregnant, because I knew about being a girl in this world, you know, and I think that’s natural too. And, and of course I had a boy and I was worried because I felt how hard to bring up a boy in this culture, not to be affected by this, these toxic messages, you know? And anyway, and of course he’s an absolute delight and, uh, and so sensitive he’s 27, just graduated with a master’s degree in social work, and he helps some very vulnerable people in the maximum security prison that are very unwell mentally and have committed, terrible crimes. He, to me has been my pro feminist project, if you will. He’s just always had such great relationships and just being so gender aware as he’s growing up and.

But he might tell you too much, but, but having a mother who’s always on about this stuff and I’d come in and they’d be watching TV and they’d go “Yeah mom, it’s all right. We realized that, you know, gender stereotypes apply in this narrative. You don’t have to tell us.” And all of us I you know, now, this is what it’s about for all of us I guess, just understanding these gender narratives and, when you think about the traditions in clothing and media and advertising and, games and toys and stories and the sort of sport and leisure activities and homes and families, and then inevitably we take on these stereotype roles.

Cause that’s what the system puts us in. As women, we often just end up being the one that’s mainly at home and, difficult to progress with their career and where the leadership opportunities for us in, when you can’t do part-time leadership work or it’s a lot of barriers that are gender related and so forth.

So. We’re thinking about this sort of systemic issues, and the way that these boxes are created and how much more healthy it is if we can break down those binary’s. Thinking about those gender norms that come from all of those different dimensions, where girls are focused on babies and makeup and fashion, and the work becomes largely private and unpaid as mothers or, even working in the humanities for example, teachers and much less well-paid than lawyers, for example, or folk that work in IT and industries that are dominated by men. Girls kind of expected to be more cooperative, more emotional, more nurturing, weaker, softer.

You know, when you think about all those images and messages, more dependent, more about their bodies. The expectations around boys and more towards, you know, gaming and sport and computers and, physical sciences and being self-reliant and strong and tough and even aggressive and competitive. All of these kinds of stronger and harder qualities that aren’t in themselves unhealthy, but you can be if that’s your dominant way of being or what you’re relying on for your identity. Thinking about comparing those kinds of expectations and how they might influence the way girls behave, then, if they get all these messages and of course, the way boys are behaving, which is some of the problems that we’re talking about, And then it’s not just about the behaviours, of course, in the classrooms and modern society.

It’s about how it affects their engagement with learning in schools. And we know that that’s been a big issue, for boys, for example, engagement with literacy and literature and learning, the disruptive behaviour in the classroom, the kind of idea that it’s cool to be a fool and play up in front of the teachers and, get kudos from their mates like that, this kind of dynamic that goes on.

So, the more that we are aware of and interrogate these gender norms and expectations, we can see how it affects so many aspects of relationships and, and behaviour in the classroom and in the staffroom and in the wider community. And we, when start to think about how we can intervene then, by what we do in the classroom, what we reinforce, the kinds of examples we use in our curriculum, the kind of expectations we have of the roles that kids might play in the classroom, helping roles, for example.

And I’m sure a lot of you have thought extensively about this and, Emily, you might even have some examples from your conversations that you’ve had with teachers as well.

Emily: Yeah. So There’s been a big push for classroom profiling in Queensland recently where a classroom profiler comes in and profiles your teaching. And it’s a non-judgemental process where they just observe what you’re doing. And through that, they found that teachers will give male students far more attention than they will give female students, even when there’s no misbehaviour, there’s no, you know, exceedingly good behaviour.

It’s just a stock standard lesson. And yet the male students are receiving far more attention. So I think turning a bit of a lens on our own practice, in how we’re interacting with our own students and inadvertently perpetuating those cycles. And that sort of toxic culture. We, we sort of expect the boys to misbehave, but we expect the girls to sit quietly and listen attentively.

And then, even when you come across a female student who isn’t sitting quietly and paying attentively. Get treated in a different way to a boy who’s exhibiting that same misbehaviour. Like the boy might be, it’s more expected. It’s more normal for them to misbehave in a certain way. But if a girl were to do it, it’s very unusual and it’s more shocking, I guess, for a teacher to come across. Like I can think of a past student that I taught, she was a girl and looking back on it now she was exhibiting the exact same behaviours that quite a number of the boys were exhibiting. But for some reason, always grated on me more when it came from her.

And I wonder if that’s because, you know, subconsciously I expected her to be better than that. Whereas subconsciously the boys would, you know, boys being boys, as that awful saying is.

Maria Delaney: Exactly. That’s a fantastic of one of the best ways you can just put the lens on yourself and your own re actions too. And it’s one of the activities I always do with teachers to say to them, Each time you face the child and they’re communicating with you. Try to imagine them if they’re a boy, imagine them as a girl and think about how that might change your feeling toward them or their receptivity, or just as an experiment, you know, it, will it make a difference to how you respond?

Just stop and pause and think about that for a moment and come back after a few days or the next week. And we’re like, oh, you’re so right. You know, I realized that I’d automatically assumed that the boy was being naughty or whatever. What what teachers would say mostly was that when they were speaking to boys and they did what I suggested and just pause for a moment and imagine that child as a girl, just for the exercise of imagining how they would respond to this issue and this presentation in that moment if the child was a girl, they found themselves feeling in some ways more kindly and more tolerant and more open and more willing to give the benefit of the doubt, have a conversation, that kind of thing, because the expectations are that, you know, girls are good. And I noticed that a lot in myself and I noticed that, interesting little example was I had two daughters. I have a son and two daughters and my middle child was very much like her brother and ran around And played with all his friends and liked to have a haircut short and wear his hand me downs.

And I was always very conscious about being whatever you want to wear kind of thing with the kids. So it was a mix of clothes. And my youngest daughter had very curly hair that she liked to wear long. And she liked the fairy dresses. We used to go to soccer training for about three years we went to my son’s soccer training together and the little two girls would apply. And it wasn’t until about the end of the third year, where it came up in the conversation with the group of parents that I’ve been hanging around with for these three years that they didn’t realize that, uh, Ruth was a, was a girl. They all thought she was a boy. And they were so shocked that it was so apparent on their faces that they all of a sudden felt like they didn’t know who she was or how they should talk to her or behave towards her because I’d been noticing that they, they know, you know, how you going mate to her. And then counters just on the side while we watched the soccer games and practices, and everyone would be onto a sweetie cutie little darling thing to my littlest one who was looking very girly and the stark difference way they had already been communicating with them, but I never brought it up until it sort of came up.

You know, so it was a, in the classroom as well.

And just being mindful of becoming aware of what’s unconscious and the value looking and the expectations you have towards everybody. But particularly in terms of gender expectations and, and in the classroom that looks like looking at, you know, the way gender’s represented in the literature you use and the kind of plays or the stories and the content and materials in your classroom, how diverse that is. What kind of subjects the students are encouraged to excelling in our girls have less encouraged in same stem subjects still, even though there’s been quite a push for that. How do you respond to gender-based violence?

Is there an element of all boys will be boys or it’s just too hard or, no, I can’t deal with that. I’ll just, send them to the office and it’s a better day tomorrow.

Emily: Not having those hard conversations with the boys.

Maria Delaney: And, those hard conversations can’t happen without the support of the school and without a lot of preparation, because it is hard, and that’s why it’s not happening.

Teachers don’t feel emotionally equipped. They don’t feel they have the language. When we talk to them, I say, well, you know, I’ll I’ll get lost. And it does, , it ends up undermining me and, and damaging the relationships. This is something that we need to work on in ourselves and in our own communities and be having these conversations. And, you know, before we’re all of the explicit conversation and alongside that of course, there’s there’s the implicit curriculum and the environmental thing and what’s in the curriculum that can disrupt all of these gender norms and stereotypes in so many ways.

So you’re doing graphing for math. So you’re graphing mineral exports to China, or are you graphing the number of women in political leadership in Australia? You know, what are you, what are your issues you’re shining a light on the, where can you change that? You see so many opportunities, it becomes an organic thing, an emergent thing, something that’s not forced, something that you feel like you’ve got to do but you know, you’re doing trepidation and, You know, that’s fine.

I guess the end conversation is really about having good quality support and resourcing for this work and being aware of the risks of going too hard too fast and with the community and with the kids.

Emily: So what I’m hearing you saying here is that there are many different ways that teachers can sort of approach this within themselves and within their classroom to break this cycle of toxic masculinity, that isn’t actually going to be like a head on approach. It’s sort of coming in from the side-lines, changing your day-to-day practice to be more inclusive and to break away a bit from that, you know, the stark gender binary, and really taking a reflective look at

you know, like you said before, even what books are on display in your classroom. Which students are you choosing for particular jobs? How are you presenting different aspects of the curriculum? So it seems like there’s quite a lot of things that teachers can do above and beyond and separate to any work that the government’s trying to do with respectful education.

You know, we can come in within our own daily practice and make these tiny little tweaks that can maybe not explicitly shine a light on this issue, but trying to support the students unconsciously to combat these ideas.

Maria Delaney: a formal curriculum with explicit lessons about gender and power and deconstructing that find to be effective if the environment and the culture around it, isn’t reflecting those understanding. So it’s, it’s got to be a cohesive approach. And, and that comes from the whole professional community understanding these issues really deeply.

And, and, and yes, there are great resources out there. I believe the department in Queensland will be working on developing their resources further. When we did the pilot project, we used the Victorian curriculum that was specifically developed for respectful relationships education, and we’ll provide the link for that.

And that has a lot of guidance about informal curriculum and pedagogy. As we talked about about the environment and, Professional learning as well as explicit curriculum, lesson plans and modules to use in the classrooms. So I recommend having a look at that and I believe the curriculum in Queensland will reflect some of those kinds of more explicit content around gender. It’s a sensitive issue and a lot of governments have been very, you know, cautious.

It’s understandable, but I think as educators, we really need to get on board that this is important. And the school leadership is really committed and visible around these issues because that’s an important part of the culture of the whole school approach. That it’s supported from the top, that it’s driven by grassroots and investigations and in the classroom and in the community. And done collaboratively with some really good support from perhaps from people in the department will be able to provide some of that, but on the ground in terms of professional learning and, opportunities for staff to come together as community practice, to actually reflect on how it’s working together and not be doing it in an isolated way, it’s really important that it’s a collaborative and supportive approach, peer support for all of us really. So this foundational work of developing in a safe kind of communities of practice and the culture that enables and supports steep, reflective conversations about all the sensitive issues and the challenges that come up. And addressing the resistances that can come up to from, from the kids, as well as people on staff and in the community. When you start to challenge, you know, some gender norms that are often held dear and can be quite, you know, threatening for some people to think about letting go of.

Emily: I imagine, especially if, you know, if students are hearing all of this from us as teachers, but then they’re getting quite an opposite message at home that might be reinforcing a lot of those toxic behaviors. And then here we are at school, just their teacher telling them that. Well, maybe you need to think about it in a different way.

I imagine there’s going to be quite a lot of kickback from students in that regard.

Maria Delaney: Yes. And it’s been our experience in some of the work we’ve done. The, a large part of the workers. They come working with the communities and families where there’s been high rates of domestic violence. Because if, if you start speaking explicitly with young people about, you know, it’s wrong for boys to hit or for anybody to hit and boys to girls and they thinking, well, I’m seeing that at home.

And they go home and say, well, teachers saying that that’s wrong. There are so many risks. And in fact, actually I should have brought it up before, but there’s some training that schools do around disclosures, for example if young people disclose that they’re experiencing sexual abuse or abuse in the home somehow, and how to manage that, you know, it’s in line with that, that we really need to have that level of sensitivity when you’re talking about issues of gender and behavior and, and inevitably around violence and power dynamics and in relationships, that’s not just physical violence.

Of course it’s emotional violence, it’s financial abuse, it’s alienation, it’s all kinds of things. It’s, it’s the bullying that kids are doing between each other, teasing and so forth. So yeah, a lot. That’s why as again, I say don’t jump in and try and have these conversations yet.

Emily: You really need to have the context of the school first.

Maria Delaney: Yeah. What I’m hoping the message folk. We’ll get a that, yeah, this is something we, we need to do. We need to be serious about it. We need to be careful about it. We need to start with a, you know, small group of interested staff, including folk on leadership and start to think about how we can build our own capabilities, therefore, and become aware of the risks and how to manage them before we start to be explicit with this stuff with young people.

This whole school approach I talk about is explained in the guidance materials provided by Our Watch, which is the national organization that’s been working for almost a decade now, I think, and supports violence prevention throughout the community and organizations and systems, and particularly works on respectful relationships education resourcing and in schools.

So that’s the organization that the department in Queensland worked with for the pilot that I was involved with. So there’s great resources there. And the, this whole school approach model, I suppose, is what I’m talking about. That’s key.

Emily: All right, Maria, we’re coming to the end of our time for this second section on our topic of toxic masculinity here. I’d love to hear your thoughts on, you know, is there one key thing that you want teachers to take away from this extended conversation that we’ve had?

That’s perhaps been quite emotional for a lot of listeners.

Maria Delaney: Yeah. I think that emotionality of this change or transformation project, because it is such a personal one for all of us, many ways, means that we do have to center that center understandings about our own psychology, about trauma, about healing, about managing discomfort, about staying in difficult conversations.

I suppose the key messages around this kind of resistance that can come up internally and externally, but also the, the potential for engagement, the better we can kind of manage this feeling component the better we’ll be able to engage and feel brave and, courageous and I suppose able to be empathetic and compassionate too, even when we’re talking about, or, or with people who might’ve caused harm and, and including understanding that where we might have caused harm ourselves and being able to be compassionate to ourselves and, and continue to be brave and reflecting and thinking about I believe some behaviors and how we work and what more we can do to support others and develop healthy relationships throughout the whole school. So this kind of care that needs to be taken connecting with yourself and your community for reflecting together, getting a picture of what’s happening and acting in a way that hopefully acknowledges and responds to this emotion and discomfort.

That’s the pedagogical platform for success for all of us. So I think, and I suppose that’s, that’s my key message. Building that platform, identifying where we’re already strong and building from that, into these sensitive and delicate and contested and difficult conversations that we’re going to have to have.

I think don’t rush, start slow, start small. Remember Adrian Marie Brown’s quote moving at the speed of trust.

Emily: I love that. quote so

Maria Delaney: really loved that. If we want this work to, to be effective and sustained and really transform our culture now, and this is the amazing work teachers do.

The whole of our society really. And it’s, it’s an enormous privilege and a responsibility and I’m excited to, if I can somehow provided a bit of inspiration. Certainly there’s a lot of great resources out there we can direct folks to, and we’ll provide a list of those following up. Thank you so much Emily. It’s been great to talk about this and I hope I come back and we can get feedback from folk about what they thought about these ideas. What might have challenged them more they might like to talk about or hear about and really look forward to that. So, thanks again.

Emily: Thank you so much for your time, Maria. This has been a very enlightening couple of episodes. I’m sure for so many of our listeners and so many practical tips and advice for how to approach this within ourselves and also within our classrooms.


Photo by Yasin Yusuf on Unsplash


Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys sharing the real and human teacher life, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine.

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