As it turned out, Alaine Jolicoeur, our French teacher-intern, and I wanted to attend the exact same sessions at Saturday’s GLSEN-Massachusetts conference and, as it turned out, we both had good instincts as that made for just about the perfect flow for the day. It began with keynote speeches focusing on affirming the wonderful spectrum of people attending as well as the inclusive theme “both/and,” moving on to a morning session dominated by trans and non-binary kids telling their stories and sharing methods of self-care, lunch, a session on intersectionality with a mix of kids and adults, a session attended entirely by educators on supporting K-8 kids, and finally a closing moment written and performed by those attending Trenda Loftin’s final workshop session.
The National Coalition of Girls Schools (NCGS) held their Annual Conference from June 22-24, 2015 at St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, Virginia. The theme was “From STEM to STEAM: Girls’ Schools Leading the Way.” Sally Mixsell, Head of School, attended along with science teachers Andrea Tehan Carnes and Meghan Lena, and Bill Ivey, Middle School Dean. Over the weeks following the conference, we are sharing our thoughts on what we learned and what we did.
In the aftermath of the Charleston shooting, I was both encouraged and unsurprised to see that Shawn Durrett, Dean of Faculty, had shared links to an article on the creation of a website called #CharlestonSyllabus and to the website itself. On Twitter, I had witnessed the ongoing emergence of #CharlestonSyllabus, designed to provide resources and support for teachers who wanted to follow up in a meaningful way, and had wondered how I would ever be able to keep track of everything. The website was exactly what I needed, and I wrote Shawn immediately to thank her for sharing the much-needed resource.
(originally written on May 31, 2015)
I’ll be honest - this is not normally the time of year when I feel the best about my work. As much as I try hard to make every minute count (a refrain I share with my students throughout any given school year), the sudden absence of the cushion of “Okay, she did better in these ways, but she’s still got to work on this. That’ll be for the next unit!” hits hard. Luckily, the sadness my students generally express as we prepare to go our separate ways over the summer, and the kind words they say about my class in the process. go a long way toward helping me keep the faith to some extent. And with time, and rest, and more time, perspective returns.
One of the dominant themes of the 2015 Teaching and Learning Conference was cultural competence, and for good reason. Students of colour are systematically underserved by our system, with systemic racism within our society leaving schools whose students are predominantly of colour underfunded, underresourced, and subject to a far higher teacher turnover rate than average. As Renee Moore has noted, post-Brown desegregation arguably served black students less well than the separate and not-remotely-equal system that preceded it, and we have not yet repaired that wrong. And as José Vilson has noted, the profession is becoming increasingly white even as our student population is becoming increasingly of colour. The percentage of black male teachers in particular has fallen from an already low 3% to 2%, with no signs of an imminent upsurge.
In the movie Parenthood, there’s a scene in which Dianne Wiest, as single mom Helen Buckman, comforts her 16-year-old daughter Julie, whose boyfriend has just left her. Smoothing her hair, she says, “Men are scum.” Just as she repeats, “Men are scum,” her younger son Gary walks in the house and overhears her. Caught in the moment, faced with his hurt and stunned expression, desperate to smooth things over, she looks up at him with a big smile and says... “Hi, Gary!”
Imagine the scene (and its aftermath) if Helen had said “All men are scum.” Now replace that with “Some men are scum.”
Now imagine the scene and its aftermath if Gary had screamed, “Not all men.”
And as you do so, don’t forget Julie.
Within moments, they had dispersed, some to seek out construction paper to make paper chains, some to the school store to get red duct tape and other supplies, some to their rooms to get other decorations, and one group… to the cubby room to finish the last shots and editing on their film. The Humanities 7 class had decided to have a special premiere celebration when they shared their original movies with each other and, after quickly convincing me to bring popcorn, cookies, and soda (which I had been planning to do anyway!), had decided to decorate the room specially and to have red carpet moments.
“When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’” So begins the website at http://banbossy.com/, a new organization co-founded by Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean-In Foundation and the Girl Scouts of America. The website points out that girls’ self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than boy’s from elementary to high school, that girls are twice as likely as boys to worry about being called “bossy,” and girls are still called on less and interrupted more in class. (Ban Bossy) There’s no question that we need to do something about that, and there’s no question we know some of the things that work.
On the Girl Scouts’ website, for example, they share the results of a study done in 2008 that showed the following (Girl Scouts):
- Girls, even at a very young age, have definite ideas about what it means and takes to be a leader.
- Promoting leadership in girls is primarily a matter of fostering their self-confidence and providing supportive environments in which to acquire leadership experience.
- To be relevant to and successful with girls, a leadership program must address their aspirational or preferred definition of leadership, their need for emotional safety, and their desire for social and personal development.
- Girls have a range of “leadership identities,” from strong aspiration to outright rejection of the leadership role.
Filed Under: gender, All-Girls, gender stereotypes, intersectionality, The Girls School Advantage, On Education, anti-racism, social justice, Parenting, On Parenting, community, diversity, All Girls Education, Feminism, Women in media, girls' school, Current Events, gender activism, Education