Dr. Richard Weissbourd opened his talk on “Raising Caring and Happy Children in a Challenging Time” by stating his primary worry is how we’ve elevated happiness and success and de-emphasized caring and empathy. When students were asked on a survey how important achievement, caring, and happiness were to them, about 50% prioritized achievement, 30% happiness, and 20% caring. Parents say they value caring over achievement but when their children were asked to rate their priorities, the kids felt their parents had the same breakdown of priorities as they did. Furthermore, when asked to rate parents as a group, parents themselves came up yet again with a similar breakdown except with some shift from caring to happiness. This disjunction between what parents say they believe and what kids (and other parents) perceive results from what Dr. Weissbourd calls the “rhetoric reality gap.”
“You’re not wearing a blue shirt.” The comment, coming from a Junior in her own blue shirt, was something of a test, and I got partial credit by cringing and saying, “Oh, no! I totally forgot!” At least my response showed I knew that wearing a blue shirt on that particular Monday was meant to draw attention to National Bullying Prevention Month. I did manage to wear purple on GLAAD Spirit Day to take “a stand against bullying and show [my] support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth” (GLAAD), and kept a blue pinky for a week in response to a tweet by @beinggirl; my photo even earned a retweet from the “Secret Mean Stinks” campaign, among others.
For the Humanities 7 unit on “Why do people judge other people and themselves?” one of my students did her individual Focus Question work on bullying. She designed her presentation as much to stimulate conversation as to present information, and she succeeded admirably: the discussion lasted over 45 minutes and might have continued even longer if class hadn’t ended. The students were not without empathy for bullies, coming quickly to general agreement that often, they simply didn’t know better because that was how they were treated, or perhaps they had deep-seated issues of their own and the bullying had nothing to do with the actual victims.
I try to be on the lookout for chances to react to blogs, knowing (as Bill Ferriter has pointed out on more than one occasion) that one of the highest compliments I can pay a blogger is to leave a comment or even write a whole new blog in reaction, thus showing how much of an impression they’ve left on me. So when Brianna Crowley opened one of her blogs at the Center for Teaching Quality with a writing prompt from a 30-day blogging challenge for teachers, the temptation to write my own blog based on the same prompt was strong.
Until I really absorbed the prompt: “Write about one of your biggest accomplishments in your teaching that no one knows about (or may not care).”
“So how do your students look this year?” The question was asked not, as many people might expect, by a colleague or even a parent but by three of my former students who are now juniors as we found a chance to talk at the annual Local Family Picnic. “They look great,” I said. “Of course. You know! Given the emails they’ve been writing me about the books they’ve been reading.” One of them laughed and said, “Your favourite Humanities 7 class of 2014-2015?” I laughed in return, responding “Absolutely!” knowing she was secure in the knowledge they were all part of my favourite Humanities 7 class of… 2010-2011. (For the record, I only teach one section of Humanities 7 each year, so the “favourite Humanities 7 class of...” line is something of a running joke.)
As I prepare for the imminent arrival on campus of my brand new students, as the middle school team prepares to bring together and start building this year’s community, I find myself focused not just on what the kids might be thinking and feeling but also on the parents. My son attended boarding school for three years and is about to start his junior year at college, so I know firsthand what parents are going through. The level of trust we parents place in a school when dropping off our children is powerfully and deeply touching, and part of what motivates me to do my absolute best each and every day is working to meet that trust (not that I need any more motivation than looking out at my students looking back at me!).
“When we said we wanted more women in Science this is not what we meant.” The author of this tweet was reacting to Science magazine’s most recent cover, designed for an issue on AIDS and HIV prevention, which featured a picture of sex workers in short, tight dresses and heels, cutting their heads out of the picture and thus objectifying and dehumanizing them.
The response of Jim Austin, one of the editors of the magazine was, “You realize they are transgender? Does it matter? That at least colors things, no?” to which the rejoinder was, “It’s not clear from the cover image. I don’t think it’s ok to sexually objectify transwomen, either.” Later on in the conversation, Mr. Austin responded to the comment “To me it’s just another dehumanizing male gazey image.“ by writing, “Interesting to consider how those gazey males will feel when they find out.” He also wrote, “Am I the only one who finds moral indignation really boring?” to which the response came, “If you were, the world would be a much better place.”
“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
Recently, as part of a book study, I sat down to read Why Gender Matters by Dr. Leonard Sax. I’ll confess, the title set me on my guard even though he is the founder and executive director of the National Association for Single Sex Public Education. By the end of the book, I was poised to write a comprehensive, point-by-point take-down. Fortunately, that is not where the story stops.
I paused near the end of the book to send out a message on Twitter asking for people’s reactions to Dr. Sax and his work, realizing that in my frustration with certain ideas I might not be giving other ideas sufficient credit. A parent said he had opened her eyes to the notion that single-gender education might be best for certain kids. A teacher said that kids at her school were highly engaged with him and refused to settle down and stop asking questions after he spoke when time was up. And another online colleague wrote me privately, in part to support his ideas but also to humanize him.
co-authored with Charlotte M. '16
Several years ago, a friend of mine who had just had her first child asked me what I had done to help my son grow up to be as strong, kind, grounded, and self-confident as he is. Her concerned look told me how desperately she wanted the same for her own son. My quick response, that my secret to raising my son so well had been for my wife to be his mother, was not given entirely out of modesty or humility (for one thing, my wife is truly one of the most extraordinary parents I've ever known). By, in a sense, deliberately avoiding the question, I meant to create space for her to discover the mother she was meant to be. We did have a longer, more heartfelt conversation later on, but ultimately she found the secret on her own: her child was not my child, her family was not my family, and she had to find her own way as a parent to this unique human being and as a member of her own unique family.
Filed Under: Middle School, All-Girls, The Girls School Advantage, On Education, Beautifully different, Girls Schools, On Parenting, Acceptance, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School
Spearth Day was born of a series of compromises, but has become one of the key dates in the waning weeks of our school year. Many years ago, the students asked for a special day to celebrate the mailman who played such an important role in their lives (today's students, for whom email is old-fashioned and texting is routine, would probably find this odd). We called it "M and M Day" for "Mail Man Day," and besides presenting him with a card and gifts when he finally showed, we played an all-school game of Capture the Flag and found other ways to celebrate. Over time, M and M Day evolved and became more organized - for one thing, the tradition of the talent show was begun. Meanwhile, earlier in the spring, Earth Day remained a day off for service - cleaning up local parks and rivers, clearing trails, and so on. The two days were eventually combined into one, and the name "Spearth Day" comes from "Spring-Earth Day." We spend the morning doing various service projects on- and off-campus, have the Talent Show after lunch, follow that with games and booths organized by classes and clubs, dedicate the yearbook and pass out copies, and end with a barbecue. This year, for a special treat, there will be a dance performance by the Senior IB dancers.
Filed Under: Spearth Day, Teaching, Alumnae, School Happenings, On Education, Bill Ivey, Celebrating Holidays, Beautifully different, On Parenting, community, In the Classroom, Performing Arts, performing, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Graduation, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School