Let’s be honest. We can’t move the dial on bullying unless families and schools work together. And I mean, really work together. Not blame each other. Not politely tolerate each other. But find ways to be in honest communication, build systems and structures, and hold each other accountable for creating a community of respect at the school.
Go Girls! is in the 3rd year of our partnership with Glenview Elementary School in Oakland, CA where we have just embarked on a school-wide effort called “Go Glenview! A Journey of Social Emotional Learning and Leading through Visual Arts, Theater, and Music.” The project is a partnership of the school staff and administration, the PTA and the rest of the parent community, along with us and another incredible teaching artist organization Microphone Mechanics. And, of course…the students. The school has already been working to integrate the tools of Positive Behavior Intervention and Support (PBIS) and Restorative Justice and these tools are central to guiding us on our journey. The overall goal: To help Glenview students become leaders in their lives and their communities through:
- Building resiliency, cultural appreciation and mutual respect
- Strengthening communication skills
- Navigating the school and the world
- Developing strategies to resolve conflicts
This is an awesome project to be a part of. And the parents are really showing up. Not just physically, but emotionally. A group of parents have formed an Equity Committee help the school do the hard work of creating the norms and structures that will allow all students and families to feel safe, valued and respected as part of the school community. And yes, this is hard work. No doubt about it.
As part of this, there are some things I am learning about how all of us who love our girls can show up and support the schools that support them:
- Assume the best intentions of the school – Your daughter may go to a school where it feels unsafe. The best place to start is to assume that the school does care about its students, including your daughter, and that it is doing the best it can with the resources and information it has. Classroom teachers and administrators have the hardest jobs in the world. But they do this work because they want to make some kind of difference. They do care about learning and growth. You may disagree with how they are going about it all the time but it is crucial that you show up to the conversation with an open mind and an open heart.
Educate Yourself – There is A LOT of great information out there about what is working in schools to help create a culture of safety and respect. I highly recommend Teaching Tolerance and Edutopia as the places to start.
- Be willing to own your part – The other day, I asked a 3rd grade class at Glenview what they think needs to happen to make their school a more respectful community. One boy answered, “Our parents can be role models for us.” Wow, huh? Just spend a little bit of time reflecting on how you show respect to yourself and others while you are on campus. What is your relationship to other parents, teachers, and students at her school? What are the ways you are modeling respect and where are the areas you want to work on?
- Give your money. I know. Everyone wants your money and this is just one more thing. But money is a very important part of this process. The article about bullying in this Fall’s issue of Teaching Tolerance states “The most effective bullying interventions don’t focus on only one category of kids, but rather acknowledge that all students benefit when schools empower youth and teach them about healthy relationships. Adopting comprehensive programming designed to promote social emotional competencies is a great way to support students…” These kinds of comprehensive programs cost money. Simple as that.
This post is #16 of 25 Tips to Teach Your Daughter to Respect Herself, Command Respect, and Respect Others. Wanna make sure you get all 25 Tips for Bullying Awareness Month? CLICK HERE and we’ll send ‘em right to your email!
This past week has been full. Very full. And it’s been a profound week…for all of us, hasn’t it? From the Boston Marathon bombing, to the explosion in West, Texas to the Gun Control filibuster, we have seen folks come together under extreme duress and folks ripped apart over politics and ideology. America’s compassion muscles have certainly been tested this week. So much so that I woke up yesterday morning with the overwhelming need to share what we here at Go Girls! have been up to this week. I hope you will see that we really are “walking our talk” and doing the work it takes to ignite the Compassion Revolution that we all so desperately need.
Here are 5 highlights from the past week:
1. Go Girls! Camp Staff Reunion & Gathering: Last Saturday, April 13, the incredible team of Lead Teaching Artists came to Allison and my home for brunch, hugs, and conversation in preparation for this summer’s camps. We are so grateful to be working with this team of smart, passionate, dedicated, reflective, and talented women. Take a look at the photo album from the event and the video we made (below).
2. Course Outline Complete for upcoming OMG UR My BFF: Helping Girls Navigate the Friendship Drama. Allison and I are working on a brand new product that we can’t be more excited about. Girl Advocates is a learning series we are developing to help parents, educators, and other caring adults come together to receive inspiration, information, and tools to help prepare our girls for happy, healthy lives. We consider it “education for the compassion revolution.” The course will be online and self-paced and will launch on May 15. Learn more here…
3. Edutopia @ Glenview Elementary: For many years, I have been a big fan of the website, Edutopia.org (a program of the George Lucas Educational Foundation). The site finds and features model programs and ideas for “what works in education.” And according to the Foundation, our partner school, Glenview Elementary School in Oakland, WORKS! Go Girls! has been a program at Glenview for the last 2 years now, and Allison, who is in charge of all of the amazing work that is happening there, was interviewed this past Thursday by the folks at Edutopia. We will be part of a video documentary about what is working at Glenview to come out this summer or fall. We’ll certainly keep you posted!
4. The Alphabet Rockers @ Go Girls!: We have also been huge fans of the Alphabet Rockers, an educational hip hop crew, for many years and have dreamed of ways we might come together. Finally, on Wednesday, we secured founder Kaitlin McGaw as a guest artist for our July 9-18 session at the JCC in Berkeley. She will be adding her talent and expertise as a musician and teaching artists to our Onceuponatime & Ever After theme – teaching girls techniques in singing, beat boxing, and other forms of vocal performance as a way to share their stories. The Rockers are headed out of town next week for a tour of Boston and NYC. We wish them luck!
5. The Art of Empathy at the Mentoring Conference: On Thursday, I presented my workshop, The Art of Empathy, to an incredible group of professionals at Friends for Youth’s Annual Mentoring Conference in Santa Clara. It was such an honor and a privilege to be able to spend this time with these folks, especially given everything that has happened this week in our country…in the world. The workshop focused on how to practice and teach empathy with groups of children using the arts, theater, and play; how to be more empathetic as a mentor in an one-on-one relationship with a mentee; and how to use the practice of emotion coaching as a key empathy practice to help kids be more in charge of their own emotional health.
Last Friday, as folks all over the country were celebrating Dr. Seuss, I was reading my book to the kids at Glenview Elementary in Oakland. By my book, I mean the chapter book I just self- published after a year of alternating hard work and procrastination. The book I’ve wanted to write since I was just a kid. The book I am both proud of and terrified to release into the world. Doing hard things can be scary, ya’ll. Part of being a Go Girl! is having the courage to do them anyway while taking in the support and love of those around you. The community at Glenview Elementary has been in my corner, cheering me on all year. It’s made a difference.
Friday, I had the honor of reading a few chapters from Starring Celia to a fifth grade class at Glenview. When I arrived, I smiled at the array of cozy and colorful pj’s the kids were wearing. They had blankets and were lounging on top of their desks rather than sitting studiously behind them. It was the last day of the read-a-thon and they were soaking it up. The room got quiet as I read the opening lines of my book and the kids learned about Celia’s plight. My title character has been bullied at school all year and can’t take it anymore. She acts out, strikes back and gets in major trouble. The pajama-wearing kids around me could relate. They exploded with questions:
“Why did Celia do it? How could she get so mad just ‘cause someone rolled their eyes?”
“Why is Quincy being so mean to Celia? Is she jealous? Will they be friends by the end?”
I loved seeing how interested the boys in class were about what happens to the girls in the book. Choosing to write a coming-of-age story for a girl protagonist was an intentional choice for me. The world needs more Pippi Longstockings and Ivy & Beans in my opinion. Girls are often reading about adventurous boys who create exciting lives by overcoming challenges. I was thrilled to see the boys in this classroom seemed to really care about the lives of the girls in the book. This trickled onto the yard later that day when I heard boys telling girls about what happened in the book. They were lit up about the story and the Go Girls! Program. A reminder that supporting girls really can benefit the whole community. Literacy really can lead to empathy.
As I read the next chapter to this group of 5th graders, their curiosity turned toward my book-writing process.
“Is a publisher coming to your house tonight?” No, I answered and explained the process of self-publishing. “Well, who’s permission did you get to write this book?” Beautiful question. I explained how important it was to believe in myself, write this first book and hopefully convince a publisher to help me produce a whole series. “You mean, you just gave yourself permission…and wrote a book?” Yes. Yes I did.
Here’s how I explained to kids at Glenview how to do it for themselves in 5 simple steps…
Come celebrate the launch of my book with a FREE event for families on March 17 in San Francisco!