דר׳ ירון שוורץ, יזמות חינוכית-מגדרית, מחקר וייעוץ פדגוגי | Dr. Yaron Schwartz, Initiatives in gender education, research & educational consulting  

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Dr. Yaron Schwartz,

Initiatives in gender education,

research & educational consulting

“Gender Responsive Pedagogy” is a paradigm which encourages educational institutions to strive for justice and full social equality as a holistic reality. This type of process, when done is partnership with as many of the staff in school as possible, will enable an end to all types of discrimination and oppression which still exist, and will make all students feel truly loved and safe.

Projects in Gender Education
 
Masculinity, Judaism and Gender"
Beit Midrash, Hartman High School, Jerusalem

The "Masculinity, Judaism and Gender Beit Midrash" project has been implemented at the Hartman Institute's Charles E. Smith Experimental Religious High School for Boys in Jerusalem since 2013. The project is ground-breaking- there is nothing like it currently being done in any high school in the world. The project offers a six year educational program, for students from 7thuntil 12thgrade, in which all students in the school meet weekly for two hours to learn skills for healthy, safe, and positive gender practices, informed by Jewish sources.

More than one hundred learning units have been created for the program thus far, with each one presenting an encounter between classical Jewish sources, from the Torah, Mishna, Talmud and beyond, and current theories and understandings of gender, especially in terms of fostering male identity, as well as grappling with questions of Jewish religious feminism. All of the learning units were written in cooperation with the educational staff of the school and the staff of the Hartman Institute. 

Alongside the curriculum, there is ongoing work with the educational staff who teach the curriculum, through weekly meetings which address educational challenges and dilemmas arising from teaching gender to adolescent boys in a religious context. The project sets standards and creates precedent in the field of gender studies for religious adolescents in Israel, and is ultimately slated to be available for distribution to all religious schools interested. 

The curriculum has garnered broad interest in Israel and world-wide, which has developed into multiple partnerships and joint projects. 

A short video on the program can be found here

Hartman Boys High School – Gender Studies Curriculum

 
Healthy and Safe Sex Curriculum for Middle Schools and High Schools

The contents of the curriculum written for the Keshet School:

Introductory Materials:

  • Adolescent Sexuality

  • Desire, Gender, and Inequality

  • Pornography

  • Masturbation

  • Sexual and Gender identity

  • Sexual activity

  • Preparation for a discussion about sexuality in the class

Lesson Plans (Middle School)

  • Introduction to safe and healthy sexual practices.

  • Stereotypes relating to Gender.

  • Capacity of communication

  • "Flirting" or "harassing"?

Lesson Plans (High school )

  • Who is right for me?

  • Assertive communication

  • Prophylaxis and sexually transmitted diseases

Subject- subject relationships

Work in the classroom with adolescent boys proves time and again how much the discourse surrounding "risk" pushes them away from everything related to the topic of sexual behaviors. Primarily, they have trouble understanding how approaches of abstinence or avoidance can teach them proper sexual behaviors. Therefore, the need to develop an approach of positive sexuality comes from the desire to provide information which will be seen as relevant and meaningful. At the foundation lies a conception of sexual behavior as an integral part of positive human behavior, in the very same way as happiness, health, satisfaction, appreciation and optimism are perceived. In the context of this work, approaches of "healthy sexuality" and "positive sexuality" developed, which placed an emphasis on pleasure, enjoyment, consent, emotional and physical health, acceptance of a variety of sexual behaviors, as well as sexual identities and gender identities. It is important to note that these approaches see the development of sexual practices as a normative part of adolescence, but still recognize the need to teach ways to handle risk management related to sexual behavior.

A unique curriculum was created in line with these values and challenges, whose core consists of relevant, up to date and comprehensive information for educators about an approach of healthy and safe sexuality, along with lesson plans for middle and high school. The curriculum was tested successfully in the Keshet school in Jerusalem. The school was interested in pursuing a more advanced program in sex education than that which was the norm in Israeli high schools . After a number of consultation meetings with the principal, and with the teachers who had been responsible for this topic previously, the decision was made to create a "Safe Sex Staff" in the school. The staff underwent 24 hours of training which focused on developing ways of thinking and pedagogical tools for teaching safe and healthy sexuality, and on substantial study of the relevant materials which was to be taught in each grade, according to age level. Through cooperation with the staff, the contents of the curriculum were matched to the values and needs of the school, in which students are male and female, religious and secular.  In the end, two sets of four learning units were prepared, one for the middle school and one for the high school. The units were designed so that the teachers on staff could develop them further in accordance with the interest that their students express during their sessions.

The content of the lessons written for El Halev included

  • Group building session

  • Violence and laughter in the media

  • Social violence

  • Violence as a personal experience

  • Sexual violence against women

  • Sexual violence against men

  • Social networks

  • Stereotypes of masculinity

  • Stereotypes of femininity

  • Flirting/Harassing

  • Addiction and masculinity

  • Communicating with myself and with others

  • Violence and emotions

  • Relating to the "Other"

  • Empowerment- Positive use of power

  • Empowering the other

Self Defense and Gender Awareness (Cooperation with "El Halev")

The EL Halev organization has been active since 2003 to strengthen and empower women, adolescent girls and boys, and adults and children with special needs, by means of a variety of innovative self defense,  martial arts and educational programs for preventing violence. As part of the organization's activities, I was invited to create a program specifically for adolescent boys, to give them tools to cope with challenges of violence that they face. Most people don't know that the ratio of violent episodes faced by boys vs. girls in school is 15 to 1. In other words, boys are involved in far more violent episodes than are girls. 

After a year of planning and strategy meetings, the "Self Defence and Gender Awareness" program was written together with the organizations' best teachers. The teachers prepared the training portion of the program- punches, kicks, releases from locks, dealing with knives, sticks and guns, etc. Along with this, a curriculum was developed, offering the trainers educational materials which I wrote that explain the gender significance of violence between boys, adolescents and men, from violence in the classroom to violence on the street. The combination of the physical and theoretical aspects of the program created unique lesson plans which included discussions, as well as practical experience using physical training and role playing scenarios. For example, boys learned how to free themselves from a choke hold, or how to deal with someone from their school who is blocking their path, but also gained tools for dealing with the social situation, and how to prevent it. Thus, participants are empowered physically, mentally and socially.

At an advanced stage, the students learn how they, as a group, can turn into a force which prevents violence, as opposed to their current situation, in which every violent incident is encouraged by the peer group. Another important aspect of the program is encouragement of students to be empowered to prevent and stop sexual harassment and abuse against girls and women.

 

The list of topics covered in the curriculum

  • What is equality?

  • Areas of inequality

  • Gender and Equality

  • Gender stereotypes

  • Gender stereotypes in the media

  • Celebrities and gender roles

  • Me, my body, and the media

  • On the Internet- I can be anything

  • Lying about gender on the internet

  • Share, Erase, or Keep?

  • How is gender inequality solved?

  • Gender equality- final project

Curriculum for Gender Equality in Elementary School

In the 2016-2017 school  year, a unique program for teaching gender equality in elementary schools that I wrote was implemented in the Gavrieli school in Tel Aviv. The process was preceded by four intensive meetings with the school administration and the school counselor. In these meetings, the cultural framework of the schools' students was defined, critical guidelines from the parents were developed, and the existing curricular materials, as well as the learning environment, and the non-learning environments of school were analyzed.

Additionally, students in the school were given an opinion survey in order to clarify what their personal attitudes are regarding gender equality. The results were analyzed by the school staff and teachers, and clearly reflected the dilemmas and challenges that needed treatment in the school.

The curriculum for teaching gender equality was tailored specifically to these findings, in order to fit the exact needs of the school. After the program was written, the school guidance counselor participated in a ten hour training session on all of the curricular materials, and then trained the staff in the pedagogical methods for teaching the lesson plans. The program was called "Finding the Equator", and was supposed to be taught in 5thgrade alone, but was ultimately taught in 4thand 6thgrade as well, and is still taught in the school.

The process was funded by the Tel Aviv Municipality, Fair Shared City, and the Unit for the Advancement and Status of Women in Tel Aviv

 
 

The topics of the workshops taught were:

  • Introduction to gender-critical thinking

  • Developing critical lenses: Gendered schools, gendered teachers

  • What do students expect to learn about  gender?

  • The complexity of teaching gender equality in different subjects

  • Developing and Implementing gender responsive lesson plans

  • Shaping gender identity in the educational system

  • The relationship to the body and sexuality in the educational system

  • The relationship to violence and the army in the educational system

  • Turning the results of personal research into gender responsive pedagogy

  • Transforming the school into a gender-responsive school

Teachers Researching Gender in Education- Year long Workshop for Educators

These unique workshops were created for teachers in educational institutions with the goal of connecting the practical work of the teacher on the ground with the fields of gender and sexuality, in order to develop appropriate educational interventions on the topic. Teachers learn how to prepare and lead gender education activities, how to receive feedback about the program and about student participation and experience, and how, ultimately, to effect change in the gender climate of the school.

One of these courses took place in the Ramat HaChayal elementary school, where we learned how to develop gender-critical thinking skills, and how to integrate this in a practical way in daily life in school. The course was open to all of the school's teachers, with participants taking part in monthly 3 hour workshops. Topics discussed in the workshops ranged from the general to the specific, focusing especially on dilemmas faced by teachers when teaching material which relates to issues of gender equality. There were also discussions about how teachers can influence students' relationship to their own gender identity within the existing subjects being taught, about their attitudes towards accepted gender stereotypes in their communities, about body image, and about gender and sexual violence in the school. After a final summative meeting this year was held with all of the school's teachers, the decision was made to change the school's policies regarding gender equality.

A news item on the transformation that Ramat Hachayal underwent (in Hebrew)

Workshops on Safe, Healthy and Positive Sexuality- for parents and educators

Current research in the field of education for safe and healthy sexuality points out that, by the age of 6, more than 30 behaviors of children can be characterized as "sexual". Therefore, the recommendation is that young parents should learn to recognize these behaviors, to know when sexual behavior is normal and when it is abnormal, which behaviors should be encouraged, which should be moderated, and which should be stopped. When children get older, studies show that only 15% of adolescent girls and 30% of adolescent boys report that they feel comfortable sharing thoughts or behaviors that trouble them in this area with their parents. 

These important findings point to the fact that the most important, relevant figures for each boy and girl for teaching sexual behavior are their parents. This approach contradicts the standard conception, according to which professionals should teach this subject to children. Parents need to ask themselves: why should only professionals be talking to children about this most intimate and personal topic? Should this topic be taught using warnings, threats and scare tactics? Wouldn't you want to gain positive tools in order to teach this topic? Wouldn't you prefer to explain your own position to your child, in the responsible and attentive manner of a loving, supportive parent?

 

This series of workshops begins with the assumption that most parents have a clear understanding of the values and approaches they want their children to adopt concerning sexuality, but that they don't know when or how to convey these ideas to them.

In the workshops, we learn of the importance of parental involvement in children's sexual education, we speak about the difficulties and the obstacles which create an avoidance of this discourse, and receive practical advice about how to speak about sexuality in the way best-suited to the parents abilities and values

 
 
Training kindergarten teachers for gender safety

The decision to teach young children how to cope with sexual and gender violence is a complex one which demands special training. This course, which takes place over 3 sessions, relates to kindergarten teachers and teachers' helpers as the people who are meant to serve as a "center for the prevention of sexual and gender abuse" for the children. 

The teachers receive significant tools for looking at the kindergarten with a gender-critical lens. They then learn to identify, warn, treat and cope with a host of problematic scenarios, from basic gender violence, up until real sexual violence. These incidents, unfortunately, can involve other children from the school or its environs, older children, or adults, both those who are familiar and strangers. 

The basic assumption of the course is that relating to this issue, and creating language for the children in this context, are critical for conserving children's well being, and can be life-saving. Furthermore, it is important that the topic be taught before there is an episode of abuse so that children can have as many tools as possible to identify it before it happens, or as soon as it begins. 

Kindergarten teachers have the advantage of being central, relevant figures in children's lives, with the trust and cohesion they have with their students, ensuring that the instruction on this topic will be meaningful.  Children see them as role models, and are used to learning how to behave in a wide range of social and educational situations from them. Therefore, it is appropriate that these teachers prepare their students for any possibility of gender violence to which they could be exposed, for without preparation, children will not know how to respond

The decision to teach young children how to cope with sexual and gender violence is a complex one which demands special training. This course, which takes place over 3 sessions, relates to kindergarten teachers and teachers' helpers as the people who are meant to serve as a "center for the prevention of sexual and gender abuse" for the children. 

The teachers receive significant tools for looking at the kindergarten with a gender-critical lens. They then learn to identify, warn, treat and cope with a host of problematic scenarios, from basic gender violence, up until real sexual violence. These incidents, unfortunately, can involve other children from the school or its environs, older children, or adults, both those who are familiar and strangers. 

The basic assumption of the course is that relating to this issue, and creating language for the children in this context, are critical for conserving children's well being, and can be life-saving. Furthermore, it is important that the topic be taught before there is an episode of abuse so that children can have as many tools as possible to identify it before it happens, or as soon as it begins. 

Kindergarten teachers have the advantage of being central, relevant figures in children's lives, with the trust and cohesion they have with their students, ensuring that the instruction on this topic will be meaningful.  Children see them as role models, and are used to learning how to behave in a wide range of social and educational situations from them. Therefore, it is appropriate that these teachers prepare their students for any possibility of gender violence to which they could be exposed, for without preparation, children will not know how to respond

Sports, Physical Education and Gender Equality

One of the primary locations where education encounters the broad category of gender studies is in the various branches of sports, and especially in physical education classes. Every field that is examined from a gender perspective also has relevance in the world of sports, beginning with differences in budgets allocated to male vs. female athletes, power dynamics within different sports, enormous differences in salary and prizes, the exclusion of women from certain sports, competition and violence between men, and even including issues of body image, use of performance enhancing drugs, and sexual violence of athletes and coaches. 

Education for gender equality within the world of sports can thus repair many of the problems which exist, and guarantee greater personal, physical, social and economic safety for male and female athletes, and increase cohesion between them, within teams and between teams. On the other hand, ignoring the problem creates and maintains a wide range of problems.

At the end of 2017, a continuing education course of Pisgah in the Jerusalem region took place, under the title "Gender Equality and Physical Education." The course was initiated by Ms. Efrat Omer (MA), a physical education teacher in the Ziv high school, and it took place with the sponsorship of the Physical Education supervisor for the Jerusalem region, Ms. Inbal Zalmanovitz. A large body of theoretical and practical information was gathered for the sake of the course relating to many areas of research on sports and gender, and these materials are currently available to anyone interested, and can be applied to any educational sports framework in Israel.

Watch Ms. Efrat Omer's lecture

 
 Mentoring consultants regarding embedding gender sensitivity in organizations and educational institutions 

In many private and public organizations, and in various educational institutions, central members find themselves at times becoming interested in the topic of gender, and searching for ways to implement gender awareness and activism in their organization. In many cases, these people find themselves alone in the system, with no support or recognition of the importance and relevance of the topic for each and every person. In order to offer assistance to such people, and to find ways to help them implement gender awareness in their work environment, a personal mentoring program was designed, at minimal cost, which aids these "gender agents" to map the gender climate of their organization, identify key individuals who are potential partners, adapt materials which can be implemented in practical or theoretical ways, develop an action plan, analyze the nature and degree of treatment of sexual and gender abuses, and find ways to collect resources in order to advance the topic. 

This process, until this point, has been implemented with a number of school guidance counselors, social workers in community centers, and women working in organizations. These women were all interested in raising awareness on the topic of gender, and were aided by the guidance given, in each instance, for a year, after which they continued with gender activism on their own.

 

About Me

In 2004, I began teaching in high schools on topics like gender equality, the development of gender identity and sexual behavior and activity. Most of my work was centered on adolescent boys. After 5 years in the field, and meeting hundreds of adolescents, I decided to research the dilemmas with which educators of gender and sexuality grapple .

 

This research, which later became my doctoral thesis, produced a tremendous reserve of information about gender and education, based on which I developed the "Gender Responsive Pedagogy" paradigm. 

Work with educational frameworks in Israel meant meeting a variety of demands of multiculturalism, and adapting the materials I had written for each particular group and their needs and interests regarding gender equality and sexual behavior. The projects presented on the site offer a sampling of the diversity of contexts in which gender can be learned. Readers are invited to explore each project, and to ask me any questions they might have. 

Contact Me