It’s no secret that girls today are facing adversity. With gender pay gaps still a reality and the hard truths of the #metoo movement exposing trauma and , it’s a scary time to be a girl. As educators, it’s more important than ever that we are tuned in to our students– not just their names or their grades, but a holistic understanding of who they are and what their world is. If we can’t recognize the gamut of conditions that exist in our students’ worlds outside of the classroom, we’re not doing our jobs.
This series, GIRL em(POWER)ed, will speak to the need to cultivate strength, boldness, and confidence in our girls. All of the activities can certainly be applied to any gender, but they were created with females in mind.
So, what are girls of today facing, exactly? Geography pays a huge role. If we focus on North America, we eliminate some of the tragic issues faced by other nations, including limited access and incentive for schooling; poverty and forced labor-force participation; limited curriculum available to girls; long distances to school; violence; sex trafficking; and forced family creation. There are a few amazing, dedicated organizations who have made their mission to girls education (see: PlanCanada, CARE, Malala Fund, Global Girls Alliance, to name a couple).
This series provides bite-size, easy steps for your classroom, club, organization, family, and so forth, that you can use on a daily or immediate basis with limited planning and resources. It’s founded on three central themes for fostering strong girls:
Freedom to Individuality: Girls are bombarded on all sides with messages, often wildly conflicting, about how they should be, who they should be, how they should act, and what they should or shouldn’t do. It’s impossible to shut out all of those voices as you’re just beginning to navigate who you are. While we want to foster strong and bold girls into women, we must allow them to try on many versions of themselves and be individuals and ultimately, allow girls to choose who they are. Let them be free to discover themselves and support them relentlessly on the journey.
Relationship: Navigating this world feeling like nobody cares or is on your side is truly the worst feeling. There are so many contentious messages regarding self worth girls are internalizing, and doing it solo is not only painful, but also unhealthy and even unsafe. Fostering relationships with girls is critical not only for the girls themselves but for healthy, happy, thriving classrooms. Find out their interests, make connections. Ask them how their swim meet went. Care about their weekends. Really read what they write in their creative essays. Invest in girls.
Belief: Believe in girls’ abilities to learn, to change, to grow, to try, to care, to evolve. Some of my own most vivid memories that defined my self-worth as a young woman are offhand comments a teacher or coach made, both the positives and the negatives. I had a cross-country coach who said to me once, “You really don’t care, do you?” I actually really did- I just didn’t believe in myself. That comment has stuck with me until today, and still makes me feel ashamed. Conversely, my 6th grade science teacher complimented me in front of a group of my peers, saying my poster layout I contributed for the team was sophisticated. I have never forgotten how proud that made min that moment. We likely all have moments like this, and the takeaway is: tell and show girls that you believe in them. Be a mentor who encourages and believes in them without condition.
How are you empowering girls in your schools? I’d love to hear about it!