Notes from an interview I did on 06 May 2011 in El Ejido --

INTERVIEW: C., Head of History Dept. at I.E.S. M. (2nd period)
We met in the teachers' lounge and headed upstairs to the department office where we sat first at the table, then moved to a computer nearby and, finding the printer did not respond, moved to the one in the opposite corner. C. is a sweet, soft-spoken woman, diminutive with a fetching gap between her teeth. She is quick to smile and gentle in her demeanor, organized and capable. As we sat down at the table, she clucked over the mess of papers and books everywhere. "Bueno, así son los de historia y sociales," I offered. "Sí, cuando entras al departamento de matemáticas, no hay nada. Está todo ordenado y limpio, pero aquí..."

I asked her about the development of the CSG curriculum:
She said that at first, the Junta de Andalucía offered only a general "programación" with "contenidos limitados." What the teachers found, after a year of teaching the course, was that the risk of repetition was high. In other words, the general topic--gender equity--emerged as the one and only 'message' of the course. Students disconnected and got bored. Because of the way the elective courses are offered, students can choose either French or CSG. If they choose CSG in their first year, however, it's unlikely they'll want or be able to switch to French in the following year, because they'll be behind. This means that students end up taking CSG--get locked into it, essentially--for three years, and those could be three years of 'machacando' the same message. She said that she began to notice that students' motivation was flagging. I remember her telling me at our first meeting, too, that the boys, in particular, felt targeted or alluded to by the lesson content.

The first year the course was instated, the Junta had no materials to offer teachers. They were on their own. Two years after instating course, they published a textbook. Since then, the history department has decided to modify the class content to (a) make teaching it accessible to teachers from different departments (music is teaching CSG this year, for example, and this happens so that teachers can complete their full-time teaching load); and (b) dovetail CSG content with topics being covered in the history curriculum each year, offering students more varied content that satisfies the CSG requirements but also acts as a complement to their history lessons.

As far as teacher training in CSG, C. told me that workshops were offered by faculty at the Universidad de Valencia--pioneers in gender studies. The University of Sevilla also gave training courses, and then later on, secondary teachers with experience also began giving training courses.

Currently at her school, the CSG classes align to three time periods: In first year, students study Ancient History (Egypt, Greece, Rome); in second year, Medieval History; and in third year Modern and Contemporary History. She printed off copies of the curriculum they'd developed, and these texts make reference to studying historic societies with the objective of understanding the social construction of gender. 'Pero los niños son muy pequeños para estos temas,' she said. Framing the class according to historical periods is one way of making it more accessible to both them and the teachers, she added. She showed me a collection of texts housed in the department from which teachers can choose excerpts to discuss cultural and historic gender norms.

I asked about the emphasis in these courses (including ECI) on students' emotional development and expression:
She indicated that she saw this as a positive, and that attention to emtions should be more incorporated into the rest of the curriculum rather than concentrating on a mere transfer of knowledge. She said that seven or eight years ago, she taught Ethics and that there was an emphasis on the individual but from a theoretical standpoint. They discussed different lifestyles, but there's a need for students to learn about other ways of 'knowing,' too. She added that inclusion/presentation of the emotion element depended a lot on the teacher, as well. There is a lot of pressure to comply with the curriculum ('programación'), above all, so finding ways of addressing studnets' emotional needs/development may not be a priority.

She commented on the change in education initiated by the LOGSE (education law):
There is a problem, she said, with 'como se plantea el sistema de promoción automática de curso', with letting students advance even though they don't make the grade, with limits upon the amount of homework teachers can assign. There seems to be an emphasis on minimum effort, on learning by playing. LOGSE was a renovation of Francoist education policies, and with each new government a new education law comes into being.

This has changed how students and teachers interact. "La frase más común de los alumnos ahora es 'Si me haces esto te denuncio.' O, 'Se lo voy a decir a mi padres y luego verás.'" Based on the national and provincial Education Council's ('Consejería') policies, students have gained a level of social and institutional power they never had before.

I asked about how the CSG curriculum was received by, or affected, international students:
She noted that in her experience teaching the course, she had never had any Arab boys, although she had had some Eastern European and South American boys in her classes. She said, however, that the role of women in these immigrant communities represented "un retraso relativo" in comparison with the advances made in Spain. "No tiene nada que ver con la vida ahora, de aquí, de ser mal vista que la mujer trabajara, a lo que tenemos ahora." She said her impression was that some Latin American mothers of students, for example, remained under the thumbs of their husbands. As a result, these students might be said to be living in two worlds: one in which they learn about women's rights and gender equality, and another in which they see that this is not happening in their own homes.

I asked if she'd noted the students experienced or expressed changes in attitudes while taking CSG:
She referenced a survey that she administered at the end of the school year about five years ago, when she was coordinator of co-education. It was a questionnaire made available by UNICEF, perhaps titled "Educación para las niñas," that she adapted to use at the school. She said the results indicated that students' attitudes had not, in fact, changed.

She suggested I talk with the orientador or the vice-principal to see a copy of the survey and/or year-end report in which it was discussed.