A student-initiated club led to some important conversations this year. Grade 12 students Andrew Martin and Kevin Tsambalieros created the Gender Studies Club because they knew that RSGC students had little opportunity to talk about some of the more controversial and interesting ideas based on gender norms.
The club met at lunch on Fridays and consistently had 15-20 boys for each meeting.
Co-supervisor Andrea Kaye, the Senior School Social Worker, coached Andrew and Kevin in facilitation strategies. The boys encouraged other students to attend and worked hard to come up with contemporary, engaging and sometimes controversial topics. Topics included using gender neutral greetings/language (ie. sir), whether or not the song “It’s Cold Outside” should be banned, the Gillette ad, national anthem words, R Kelly, the Me Too movement, trans in the military, benevolent sexism and more.
Ms. Kaye says it was important to her to have a space where students could have respectful dialogue about difficult ideas.
“This wasn’t about a right way to think, but an opportunity to hear different perspectives,” she said. “Discussion was often based on political beliefs, and students were encouraged to be curious in a way that was counterintuitive considering their exposure to ubiquitous polarizing online banter. In this post #Me Too era, boys are thinking, but not necessarily talking, about how they are dealing with the messages about masculinity and the future.”
Alison Hart, who also supervised the club, is really glad to see these discussions happening at an all-boys school.
“We don’t often talk about these issues in the classroom. With social media now, boys are really aware of these things. Unfortunately, they’re only getting one side – one political stance – and not necessarily looking at different voices,” said Ms. Hart. “There’s also a ton of curiosity. This club was a chance to express opinions and hear other sides.”
Although teachers were welcome to attend, the club was strictly student-moderated – one of the features that seemed to be appreciated by other students. Andrew and Kevin did a great job facilitating discussions and learned to keep their own opinions to themselves.
Andrew and Kevin have now graduated, but they certainly are leaving their mark. There are plans for the club to continue in the fall, with a student in Grade 11 stepping up to facilitate.
Royal St. George's College is an independent school for boys located in The Annex neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The school admits boys from Grades 3 through 12. Our mission is to challenge and inspire each of our students to become the best version of himself.