(with thanks to Middleweb for originally publishing this review)
“The idea that only special people can create change is useful if you want to prevent mass movements and keep change from happening.” (Lyn Mikel Brown)
“Maybe the kids will save us.” It’s a phrase I periodically and not infrequently hear among teachers, along with “They give me hope.” I’ve said it myself - just two days ago, in fact - and no doubt will continue to, because I do firmly believe it. And on that horrible Wednesday, when the last Rock Band group of the night smiled and thanked me and walked out the door laughing together and there was nothing left to enable me to wall off my emotions about the news from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, one of my first responses was to turn immediately back to the kids. I asked Windsor’s permission to post her beautiful and powerful All School email to our blog, and she quickly and graciously agreed. It has become our most widely read blog post ever, and for good reason.
Before you keep reading, I’d like to invite you to read a piece my friend Christina Torres wrote for Teaching Tolerance entitled “We Can’t Dismantle What We Can’t See: Teaching Concepts of Masculinity.”
<pause>Done? Good. Thanks.
It wasn’t until the second year of our middle school that I threw the switch that committed me firmly to a democratic classroom path. The first year, I listened carefully to students’ suggestions and incorporated them into the course, as when I built a unit around A Midsummer Night’s Dream that included a project in scripting and filming a trailer for a movie version, but I retained the ultimate decision-making authority. The second year, I began with the same model, but as I found myself repeatedly bumping up against student resistance, I had to face the reality that I was incorporating student voice but not agency into the class. The first unit students actually designed from the ground up in Humanities 7 had the theme question, “What is music?” and was, from multiple perspectives, the most successful unit so far.
I’m still on the email list for the 9th grade class, so when Eni ‘18 shared the agenda for Wednesday’s class meeting, I received a copy of the email. She also included a link to a Buzzfeed video, “I Am Not That Girl.” Curious, I clicked on the link, and found a video that began with a litany of insecurities that takes up over half of its 2’16”: “I’ve never been That Girl… That girl who knows how to flirt properly. That girl who knows how to put on make-up flawlessly. That girl who can post a photo to Instagram and not find a million insecurities lurking at the tips of her fingers as she presses the “Share” button...” Being judged and judging herself is not limited to her flaws, especially as subjected to a heteronormative male gaze, for “I know that I shouldn’t let these things define my femininity… And I’m always forced to ask myself, ‘What’s wrong with me?’” Eventually, though, the video shifts tone: “But maybe it’s because I was never destined to be That Girl. Maybe it’s because I was destined to be something more…”
By Ellen Carter, School Counselor
This piece was originally written last fall about the “Rejection Boot Camp” workshop given by Rachel Simmons; we are publishing it now as Ms. Simmons is about to return to our campus.
Rachel Simmons came to our school today to teach a “Rejection Boot Camp” workshop for upper schoolers at SBS. The focus of today was on debunking myths of perfectionism in our culture and helping students make personal goals. Students were encouraged to unearth the various ways in which societal expectations are created that effectively pull them into corners of self-doubt and fear of failure. We talked about what it really means to “be brave” and take risks, however small, in one’s life. Simmons emphasized the need for connection, not necessarily doing it on one’s own, but actually collaborating and seeking support. Students were encouraged to think about not only the brave acts in their lives and the healthy risks that they might take, but the aftermath and how they might respond to various failures that are bound to occur when we risk stepping outside our comfort zones. This workshop is about making goals, taking risks, and advancing with small, manageable steps towards reaching one’s goals. It is also about naming what is important to you, unearthing your authentic thoughts, desires, fears, and taking steps towards realizing something that is important to you and carrying it out.
With five teacher/advisors volunteering to chaperone the 8th graders on their annual trip to Washington, DC, it seemed only right for me to step up and sign up to sub in their absence. I got Andrea's 7th grade Science/Math class and Meghan's Junior IB Bio I class. We got off to a bit of a slow start in the 7th grade Pre-Algebra class as the 7th graders who were in the predominantly 8th grade Algebra 1 class downstairs were apparently baking, and there was a tidal wave of enthusiasm for the idea of our doing the same despite the fact that we had neither ingredients nor oven. But it wasn't long before I was tossing dry-erase markers to students to go put up their answers to the homework on the board before checking them over.
"The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights." - Gloria Steinem (quoted on the “International Women’s Day” website)
On the last of classes in the middle school, I made the following post to Facebook:
Filed Under: Teaching, All-Girls, On Education, Beautifully different, Girls Schools, community, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, girls' school, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education
The other day at Open House, one of the attendees, a public school teacher, asked each of us present on a faculty panel to talk about how we ended up at Stoneleigh-Burnham, and why we stay. Our stories were as individual as we are. My own begins the summer I was getting married…
It was the summer of 2004, and my fiancée and I had just graduated from the M.A.T. program in the French and Italian Department of the University of Massachusetts. Each of us had completed all the requirements for Massachusetts State certification except for the French proficiency exam. My fiancée called up to find out details, and was told that there was a non-refundable fee of $75 and it would be given on one of three possible Saturdays in August, one of which was to be our wedding day. The exact date, she was told, would not be given out until no more than three weeks ahead of time, “for security reasons.” We were about to spend a year living in France anyway, so we elected not to register for the exam. That meant, when it came time to apply for teaching positions, we had no choice but to apply at independent schools. And that’s how I ended up at Stoneleigh-Burnham.