March. The Presidential debates will be ending soon (at least the preliminary ones), and it's getting more and more uncomfortable up in here. What on earth do we tell our children, our students, and even each other about the qualifications of the candidates . One of these people will soon be selected as the "Leader of the Free World". Since I'm also feeling the pain this weekend of Downton Abbey airing its final episode, I can't help wondering what The Dowager Empress would have to say on the discussion at the last Republican debate.
I've always wondered if things would be different if women were really in control of governments. Wondered if the focus would be more on being kind to each other, less on the need to show up with the biggest weapon. Who knows? The girls aren't always so kind to each other either.
I belong to quite a few teacher groups, both online and in person. Although I am officially retired, I guess I will always consider myself a teacher, and I love to be around those who are still so actively involved. Every couple of days it seems, someone enters the discussion online or shows up at the restaurant or walks into the teacher's lounge with a similar complaint. "It's (insert month here), and my class is still so out of control. Kids are so mean to each other. I have bullies in my class. I hope they don't keep talking and screaming through my evaluation." I sometimes helpfully suggest the proven system I used which can seamlessly work with the standards and bring kids together as a learning community. Works like magic. Honest. You won't read about it here. I'm tired of suggesting it. No one seems to be listening.
Let me offer one more suggestion before I dash out the door to "A Night With Janis Joplin", and then come home to plan the menu for tomorrow's high tea in honor of the Downton folks. Just one. (Yes, you can say I'm living in the past. I often long for a kinder and simpler time when kids had someone to look up to. OK, I know Janis wasn't exactly a role model with her overuse of drugs and alcohol and her untimely death from the above. She did have a gorgeous smile to share with the world though, never hurt anyone else, and rose from a childhood of bullying to become a strong and independent woman who could belt the blues with the best of them. There is something there to emulate.)
Excuse me for rambling. I am aware that it has occurred once more. My suggestion? Let's offer some role models for kids to look up to. Let's start with us. Mainstream America has been involved in a campaign of disrespect for teachers for waaaaayyyyy too long now. I remember when kids looked up to their teachers and wanted to grow up to be just like them. (Those of us who have been involved in education long enough will remember those days. They were real.) Starting with us simply means to me to walk into that classroom every day with a clean slate. You have no bullies. You have no loud and disrespectful kids in that room. You are a great teacher with the greatest class ever. Now let's get the day started. They may just surprise you and act the way you would like them to act.
Now for role models. Our next president may very well be a woman. No political endorsement either way here. She may just win it while the boys are acting like the worst fourth grade discipline problems on a long recess with no supervision. (Maybe they had poor role models. Don't know. Don't care. No excuse for them.)
It's March! And March is Women's History Month! I do like to show my students positive female role models in life and in careers throughout the year, but in March we can lay it on a little thicker. Just add a new glossy coat. While planning for Women's History Month and finding new examples of strong and successful women all around us, I am continually amazed that I never run out of new and exciting discoveries.
A few examples:
Kathryn Sullivan of NOAA, who placed the Hubble telescope in space, and now protects the oceans and atmosphere of our planet, launching a media campaign for #EarthIsBlue and educating our young people about the importance of protecting this jewel of a planet that has been entrusted to us.
Marie Daly, an African American PH.D. chemist (did I mention the first one?) who researched healthy foods and lifestyle habits that could lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. She did this in the 1940s. She also gave back by way of encouraging young people of color to apply for careers in science and medicine.
Jane Goodall, who lived among and studied the wild chimpanzees of Tanzania. I had heard of her before of course, but did not know of her extensive work in science education for young people.
Just a few. The list is long. Strong, ambitious, motivated to reach and grasp and learn. And then to give back. Leave a legacy. Role models we can aspire to. No one cares if they were large or small. They had no need to point out the size of their own or any other person's body parts. Their interests were in leading from the heart, with all the knowledge they could acquire, in an area they had a passion for exploring. What more could we ask of our own children?
So for this month, at least, and hopefully going forward, let's try encouraging all of our students to read like a girl, interact like a girl, study like a girl, discuss like a girl, aspire like a girl, and to lead like a girl. Let's encourage them to do all these things in the way the best of our role models (including you!) would do them. Get involved in some research and project based learning focused on these and other role models. And watch those immature behaviors and unkind actions melt away.
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