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Gender Studies and Psychology: A Thought-Provoking Joint Course

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Gender Studies and Psychology is a year-round elective offered as one class to juniors and seniors. Since the two subjects last one semester each, the course provides an in-depth introduction to both gender studies and psychology. This fast-paced, riveting course leaves students hungry to learn more. Despite this elective being offered for many years, there is a fresh spin on it this year. It has been previously taught by Anne Olson and Lisa Otsuka, but Gender Studies and Psychology has been adopted this year by Erin Walsh and Rachel Wan. Although it is still the same course, the new teachers have applied their unique ideas and approaches to make it their own.

In 2020, Walsh began teaching English to M-A freshmen and sophomores but has recently exchanged her AS English Ⅱ class for Gender Studies. Having extensive education in the humanities, a social science credential, and a passion for women’s rights, Walsh eagerly jumped at the opportunity to teach the course. “One of my main goals is to help students understand more about their own identity,” said Walsh. “I want them to gain knowledge about how ideas surrounding gender and sexuality have differed throughout history.” In addition to following the past curriculum, Walsh added more English reading and writing assignments to her Curriculum. She said, “Since English is what I’ve taught the past few years, I’m striving to help students on that front as well as Gender Studies by combining the two subjects whenever I can.” 

Gender Studies gives an overview on many topics regarding gender and sexuality in today’s society. Students analyze the role of gender in various topics present in our everyday lives. Throughout the course, students use their predetermined knowledge of analysis and critical thinking from other classes to study gender’s role in history, current events, and other mediums. This year, Gender Studies students learn about topics such as LGBTQ+ history, gender-based hate crimes, femininity, masculinity, and more. The class structure varies depending on the lesson, but it typically incorporates a lot of group work and some lectures. There is something for every type of learner with the variety of assignments given to the students. “We watch a lot of videos and read a bunch of different texts,” said junior Elizabeth Poirier. “Ms. Walsh does a great job switching up what we do every day which makes it more interesting for the students.” Senior Ben Timm shared his enthusiasm for the class, saying, “It is really cool to be in a class where we discuss topics we don’t typically touch on in other history classes.” 

Wan teaches the psychology part of the course. Wan double majored in English and psychology at Santa Clara University prior to teaching at M-A. She has been a part of the M-A staff since 2019, teaching ninth-grade English. This year, Wan decided to utilize her psychology degree by teaching psychology at M-A. Wan is passionate about psychology and has been interested in it for a long time. “I was one of those kids who always watched Criminal Minds and other shows like that. I really love the idea of reflecting and understanding who we are and how we interact with the world.” 

This intro psychology class focuses on topics such as memory, development stages, and sleep cycles. Students learn in-depth about the psychological effects of changes in their environment and society and how these changes affect our developing brains. To build the curriculum, Wan took influence from Otsuka’s curriculum from past years and the American Psychological Association’s standards for high school psychology education. Wan created a curriculum that would leave students with more of a grasp on how their mind works and what makes them unique individuals. Wan explained, “I want my students to have a better understanding of who they are and their development and growth. I also want my students to think more critically about how they interact with the people around them, and how their environment shapes who they are.” The class mostly consists of lectures and activities, but Wan hopes to invite guest speakers to teach the class about further aspects and applications of psychology. Although it can be hard to cover all the content in one semester, Wan finds ways to go in-depth on certain topics and invoke self-reflection for the students. 

These two classes provide students with an opportunity to further their education in topics not discussed in typical classes. Nao Ohashi, a senior who took the course last year, said she gained a lot from the classes and would recommend it to anyone thinking about taking them. She said, “I would describe this class as a great way to dive into both gender studies and psychology.” This year, Ohashi is taking AP Psychology and said Psychology was a great foundation for this course. She also gained a lot from Gender Studies, saying, “Gender studies taught me a lot about how to be more open and understanding to communities I’m not a part of but support.” These classes help students gain more knowledge and new perspectives about themselves, making Gender Studies and Psychology an eye-opening and thought-provoking elective.

Tessa Goldman is a junior at M-A and in her first year of journalism. She hopes to write about school events and athletics. When not in school, she enjoys dancing and is Captain of the M-A dance team.

Charlotte Fisher is a senior in her first year of journalism. She writes food reviews, sports stories, and features on people at M-A. Charlotte is the Captain of the M-A lacrosse team, a member of the 12th man club, and a coach for youth lacrosse. She is excited to write more stories on school events and activities.

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