The following list is taken from a teaching guide I saw online a few years ago.
“Make clear her part in the process or product on which she works.”
“See that her working setup is comfortable, safe and convenient.”
“Suggest rather reprimand.”
“When she does a good job, tell her so.”
“Listen to and aid in her work problems.”
All pretty sound advice for us language teachers, and I would say it represents a fairly accurate picture of the contemporary attitude towards how a teacher approaches a class.
The first seems particularly to relate to the giving instructions and making sure the students understand exactly what you expect from them. The second tells us we need to create comfortable working environments in order to successfully facilitate their learning. The third speaks for itself, something that is commonplace nowadays and this is complemented by the fourth, which encourages us to use positive reinforcement. Finally, we are told to listen and assist when the student is having difficulties.
I think I’d be hard pushed to find anyone reading this who would disagree with any of that advice. What is interesting is that is wasn’t written for language teachers, or even school teachers. It’s taken from a “booklet that was intended to assist male bosses in supervising their new female employees at RCA plants” in the 1940’s. Yes, it was designed to allow men to train women how to build machines.
At first it seems an interesting relic of a bygone age, and easy to dismiss as evidence of men’s patronising views towards women in the 1940’s. And that is almost certainly the tone in which they were written. It’s as if these ‘women’ are a mysterious alien species that need to be spoken to in a different way. They don’t like being shouted at, cajoled and there’s certainly no ‘horseplay’, oh no, they require a softer touch. But despite this, yes “Women are Teachable!”
So, in our more enlightened times, we can look back on these with laughter or scorn, depending on our disposition. And then we can realise that they were probably right, women do prefer to be treated like this. The funny thing is, so do men. And boys. And girls. Everybody does. The fact that it needed to be explained is what is bewildering.
I’m just grateful I wasn’t trained to build machines for RCA in the ‘40’s, male or female.