If you had the chance to listen in on a conversation between two longtime friends, both of them among of the best known, most respected, wisest people writing and speaking about girls in particular and children in general, you’d jump at the chance, wouldn’t you? I certainly did, attending an event Tuesday night at Smith College sponsored by Smith College Campus School, finding a seat next to our school counselor and my own longtime friend, Ellen Carter (and a few rows behind Julie Mencher, a noted gender specialist with whom our school has worked in the past).
I work hard to listen carefully to my students. It shows respect for them and respect for girls' voices, it gives me a chance to learn from and about them, and it gives me the chance to be a role model to them. Yet I confess, on occasion, I do deliberately interrupt them. One such occasion is when they say "We all think..." and I will interrupt to ask who "we all" is and how they know "we all" think that way. They rephrase, "My two friends here and I think..." and I go back into active listening mode. One of the highlights of the 2009-2010 Humanities 7 class was one February when a student said, "Most of us think..." and then looked at me slyly and said, "Did you notice I said 'most of us'? (I smiled and nodded) See? I have been listening to you!"
Rachel Simmons, the author of the ground-breaking Odd Girl Out and best-selling Curse of the Good Girl, has just co-authored along with Kate Farrar an article in the Huffington Post entitled “The Confidence Gap on Campus: Why College Women Need to Lean In.” Many readers will recognize the reference to Sheryl Sandberg's brand new book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. In the book, Ms. Sandberg argues among other things that women need to work to overcome “the stereotypes we internalize that hold us back,” (Sandberg, quoted in Adams) and “own their own ambition.” (Simmons and Farrar)
After presenting undeniable evidence that college women are not getting the leadership positions they have earned and deserve in as great a proportion as college men, Simmons and Farrar ask the women themselves what they need. Their answer? “Provide us the skills, supports and mentoring to build confidence to take risks and test our leadership on campus. College women want to be aware of and prepared for the barriers both on campus and as they enter the workplace.” (Simmons and Farrar) This sentiment echoes those expressed by many members of my 8th grade Life Skills class, namely that they are finding their voices, and they know they are being heard in our school. They want us to help them ensure they will be able to make their voices heard out in the world.
Filed Under: gender, On Education, Lean In, Rachel Simmons, Bill Ivey, Sheryl Sandberg, gender equity, Beautifully different, women in leadership, diversity, Women in media, Uniquely Stoneleigh-Burnham School
During the week before break, as the Humanities 7 class and I were reading and discussing Curse of the Good Girl by Rachel Simmons, they asked if they could use their hand looms and work on their last “Art and Culture” project. I’ve always felt, and I know that research shows, that some people actually concentrate better on discussions when they are engaged in some task that does not require their full attention (doodling, squeezing a rubber ball, listening to music, knitting, etc.), so I readily granted their request. It led to a heightened sense of calm and community even as we had some of the longest and deepest conversations of the term. They asked Sara (their art teacher) and I whether they could continue the practice once art class was over, and Sara not only agreed but also quite generously offered to provide supplies. I of course was only too happy to grant their request.
One by-product of our school’s involvement in the Rays of Hope walk for breast cancer has been an increased interest in knitting as students work to help create pink scarves to be donated to cancer survivors, and some of the 7th graders had already been bringing knitting projects to class to work on during discussions. Meanwhile, a student survey showed that one of the top-rated topics in our new “Life Skills” course was cooking. As someone who enjoys cooking and used to enjoy knitting, I know firsthand the usefulness of these skills. Moreover, I’ve long felt that one can be feminist and still advocate for schools offering units and topics associated with Home Economics as long as one doesn’t associate those skills with only one gender. So I have been secretly glad to see these interests building, and I am quite happy to support them.
Filed Under: Middle School, Teaching, Grades 7-12 and PG, All-Girls, On Education, Rachel Simmons, Boarding and Day, All Girls Education, In the Classroom, Stoneleigh-Burnham Middle School, The Faculty Perspective, Stoneleigh-Burnham School, Education