The me ask myself the question, why do

The construction of femininity in educational settings According to Mac Naughton (2003) ‘children are influenced by the nature of the expectations placed on them to behave in particular ways as boys and girls’. The contrasts between male and females are traits which have been learned socially. These traits may vary between cultures, race, social classes and socio-economic backgrounds.  As Urban and Murray (2012) believe ‘from the moment children are born, boys and girls are treated differently in most cultures’, ‘As children develop, the different approaches and expectations for boys and girls become more marked’. I feel gender is more than just our biological formation. Maccoby and Jacklin (1974) claim that ‘physical and behavioural difference vary greatly across different ethnic and cultural groups’. This shows gender has been constructed by society to create a difference between how a female and a male should act and behave. From pre-school, girls are expected to like pink, dress in pretty dresses and behave in a good, quiet manner. Murray & Urban (2012) state the common beliefs of girls to be ‘quiet, compliant and co-operative’. Children should be able to explore and play freely without physical limitation due to certain clothing. The child should have a choice in what they wish to wear and express their personality. I have gained an insight in the world of pre-school as my mother has worked in a pre-school setting for over 17 years. It is evident that the resources and toys are influenced by gender. The dressing up closet is a favourite for many children. However, it is obvious that there is an increased number of girls dressing up clothes. This makes me ask myself the question, why do we define clothing specifically for boys and girls?  I attended a Catholic all-girls school from the age of 7-18. The uniform was uncomfortable and cold in winter months as we were obliged to wear a skirt. Change in society and in educational settings is happening. The clothing brand Gap has recently collaborated with Ellen DeGeneres to create a gender-neutral clothing line. Gap explains it is ‘more than just a clothing collection. It is a social movement meant to empower young girls to be their own heroes.’ According to Morgan McKinley’s study of the Gender Pay Gap in Ireland 2016, it shows that males are paid on average 20% more than females. I believe this is down to the lack of opportunities brought to many women in their educational years. Subject choice in my school was limited as we were expected to study home economics which prepared us for life as a mother. We were denied the opportunity to study metal work, woodwork or technology as the school did not offer these subjects. I found this affected my chance of studying STEM subjects which offer numerous job opportunities. Fortunately, Education Minister Richard Burton is to ‘encourage more girls to study STEM subjects to meet skills needs’. This will give many young ladies the opportunities to thrive in the subjects which I was denied and go on to better themselves in a positive, skilful manner.  The effect of social class on the educational experience According to a study by Jessica Shepherd, Education Correspondent for The Guardian (2011), ‘Parents’ social class has a greater impact on how well their children perform at school than “good parenting” techniques’. This research shows students which derive from parents with stable professional jobs were ahead, educationally, of students from disadvantaged homes by 8 months. Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist (1930-2002) who believed the educational system is structured in a way to depict a miniature version of society. Bourdieu believes that students who originate from middle to upper class backgrounds have a better chance at understanding the educational system as the culture of the school is closer to their own. Educators may use language which middle class students will understand making it easier for them to learn different topics. Therefore, he concludes that the educational system is creating educational success and failure depending on social class. This makes it hard for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to escape the reality of what opportunities may lie ahead.  Children imitate behavioural patterns of parents and family members from a young age. I believe the nurture of the child has a great impact on the personality, traits and goals the individual will accumulate. Behaviour within the classroom is greatly impacted by the student’s quality of home life. Puder & Munsch (2010) state ‘familial stress including mental disorders or illnesses of parents, stress associated with low socio-economic status, might further contribute’. The school I attended had a diverse mix of social class. Many behavioural difficulties did come from individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. As our education system currently stands, it believes everyone learns in one universal way. It does not treat students as individuals who have different strengths and abilities. These students got frustrated easily as they did not understand the work. Educators would lose patience and categorise these students as trouble makers which was unfair and stereotypical. Some students in the school originated from the Travelling Community. Many joined the school late and were older than the other students in the class as they missed years of education and were required to advance to the same level as the other students. The Traveller community is one which is filled with many belief, value and family traditions. The parents of these students may not have acquired the skills of reading and writing. Therefore, the children may never have had any experience academically outside of the educational system. Many educators have a bias approach to students from such communities. ‘If you have a teacher that doesn’t like Travellers it can have an affect on how she speaks to the child … the other children then pick up on how the teacher is approaching this child’ Equality and Dialogue in the Involvement of Traveller Parents in the Preschool Education of Their Children, Anne Boyle (2006). Traveller children may find the education experience challenging not just academically, but socially. According to research from Hilary Harmon, education co-ordinator of Pavee Point, only 13% of the travelling community complete second level education, only 1% complete third level education. This research shows social class directly impacts the educational experience of students.  The usefulness of the life course perspective in understanding human development Glen H. Elder Jr (1934-) developed ‘The Life Course Theory’ to help understand why and how humans develop throughout their life. Elder believes there are many social impacts which have consequences on how we develop. ‘The Life Course Theory’ Elder (1997) is interested in looking at a group or category of people rather than single individuals. This theory looks at four different themes: historical time and place, human agency & social constraints, time of lives and relationships to others. He investigates the way social change can affect the lives of people and if/or they are affected in different ways.  This theory is remarkably helpful in educational systems. Schools are commonly categorised into age groups as we believe children of the same age develop commonly. Elder states ‘social timing refers to the initiation of and the departure from social roles, and to relevant age expectations and beliefs. The social meanings of age give structure to the life course through age norms and sanctions, social timetables for the occurrence and order of events, generalized age grades (such as childhood and adolescence), and age hierarchies in organizational settings’. From my own educational experience, I believe this is a good way to categorise students as my classmates and I all shared common interests, we could play sport under the one age group and we were at the same developmental stage in life. Elder claims that the relationships we have with others can have an affect on our own development. As my own parents are separated, I do believe this has had an impact on myself and has made me a strong, independent individual. Elder (2001) states ‘each generation is bound to fateful decisions and events in the other’s life course’. His theory talks about how certain social dilemmas can have a huge impact on human development. Irelands recent economic crisis had a major affect on the lives of many people psychologically and physically. However, Elder’s research on the Great Depression shows that there were some advantages. His research shows students at the age of adolescence thrived in their studies, gained happy marriages and had a much greater appreciation of life. As these people have seen how hard life can be, I believe it then is much easier to appreciate and be grateful for what we have and what opportunities present themselves to us. I personally have seen my family struggle and it has gave me the motivation to work to my goals in a bid to have a more comfortable future for myself and for them. Elder’s ‘Life Course Theory’ has unquestionably supported the understanding of human development and will do for the future.                References Affairs, D. o. (2016). Traveller and Roma Communities. In D. o. Affairs, Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Charter (pp. 64-65). Dublin: Government Publications. Donnelly, K. (2018, January 6). News Education. Retrieved from Independent.ie: https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/education/drive-to-encourage-more-girls-to-studystem-subjects-to-meet-skills-needs-36355211.html English, E. (2013, October 12). Traveller Education: Just 13% of Traveller children complete secondlevel education. Retrieved from Irish Examiner: http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/traveller-education-just-13-of-traveller-childrencomplete-second-level-education-425272.html Impact of Social Class on Education. (2017, July 5). Retrieved from UK Essays: https://www.ukessays.com/essays/sociology/social-class-education.php McKinley, M. (2016). Gender Pay Gap Ireland 2016. Retrieved from Morgan McKinley Go Beyond: https://www.morganmckinley.ie/sites/morganmckinley.ie/files/gender_pay_gap_in_ireland _2016.pdf Naughton, M. (2003). Gender. In M. Naughton, Shaping Early Childhood (p. 47). O’Brien, E. Z. (2013). Factors in the Family Sphere. In E. Z. O’Brien, Human Growth & Development (p. 132). Dublin: Gill & MacMillan. O’Brien, E. Z. (2013). Glen H. Elder Jr. In E. Z. O’Brien, Human Growth & Development (pp. 35-39). Dublin: Gill & MacMillan. Shepherd, J. (2010, December 7). Social class has more effect on children than good parenting. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2010/dec/07/social-class-parenting-study Urban, C. M. (2012). ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’. In C. M. Urban, Diversity & Equality in Early Childhood (p. 137). Urban, M. &. (n.d.). Do 0-6 year olds need lessons in gender equality? In M. &. Urban, Diversity & Equality (p. 136). Williams, A. (2015, September 11). Everybody in dresses: Why does gender neutral clothing always mean ‘boy’ clothes for girls? Retrieved from nationalpost.ie: http://nationalpost.com/life/everybody-in-dresses-why-does-gender-neutral-clothingalways-mean-boy-clothes-for-girls