Apologizing to Students

Tonight I sent an apology to the students in a class I teach. I emailed them in hopes that they 1) forgive me 2) call me out if it happens again and 3) feel like our classroom is a safe space to get things wrong. Fingers crossed.

Hi everyone!

Today in class I spoke incorrectly, and realized it as I was thinking about class tonight on my evening walk. Please allow me a chance to try again.

As I was explaining my concerns about this image, I relayed my discomfort with the idea that children were supposed to identify someone with short hair (and big toothy smile) as “boy.” I said something about the hair being insufficient for representing gender and when I switched to describing observable biological differences – you probably DON’T forget that I said penis in class – I kept using the term gender when I should have used sex. These are very different things and my misuse of the term may have unintentionally offended you. I’m sorry for misusing the term. 

The way our social understandings of sex, gender and sexuality have changed in my lifetime are significant and I really appreciate how your generation continues to teach mine the ways in which our earlier understandings and language aren’t sufficient for moving forward. Thanks for giving me grace as I make mistakes with this language. My intention is never to offend or hurt you. If you feel comfortable doing so, feel free to call me out (in class or after!) if you catch me using language that is inaccurate or unacceptable for another reason. I value the opportunity to learn from you about this and many other things as we spend time together this semester.


P.S. If you’re wondering the context for our class discussion, it was this TED talk in which Cindy Foley gives a similar example and asks the question, “How can something so nebulous be so concrete?”