Anticipating the arrival of Rachel Simmons on Roland Park Country School’s campus this week had me reflecting about the ways lessons from her books translate to our youngest girls and their parents. This summer the lower school faculty read Odd Girl Out, The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, by Rachel Simmons. At the time, I found the book a wonderful introduction to the many issues young girls face in our society. However, I felt that it specifically addressed girls in the middle to upper school age bracket rather than our lower school demographic. As I went back through the many dog-eared pages from the summer, I found myself seeing more parallels to our girls who are sometimes struggling with friendship and confidence issues all be it on a smaller scale. It appears that it is never too early to talk about friends vs frenemies (or relational aggression), bullying, self-image, and the misuse of social media. The final chapter of the book is devoted to the “road ahead for educators and administrators.” Rachel points out that, “The lessons must begin early and continue year after year.” This is why we had this phenomenal author come to speak to the entire community and specifically to our girls in grades four and five. Her words were inspired and perfectly targeted.
To set the stage for Ms. Simmons, I met with our fourth and fifth grade girls during Morning Meeting to get them thinking about friendships. This was to be the subject of the afternoon talk, and I wanted the girls to feel comfortable analyzing the challenges that come with making and keeping friends. Their responses to my sentence starters, “A good friend is….,” and, “You know someone isn’t a good friend when…..” were heartfelt. There were many shaking of heads in agreement with everyone’s answers. Changes in friendships, which often happens at this age, were very much on their minds. I read from a book that would make a great holiday gift for your girls this season, The Confidence Code for Girls, by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. It is written specifically for girls and will give parents helpful insights into what might be holding your daughter back from finding her own confidence code. See an illustration below of three books that I find so useful in understanding young girls and their complex relationships.
Rachel made sure the girls were comfortable and engaged from the minute she stepped into the room. She had a wonderful sense of humor that was very relatable for them. With a photo of herself as a child surrounded by friends, she discussed the down and dirty of friendships. Girls can be your BFF one day and the bully going against you the next. She talked about the importance of allowing space to grow and explore other friends or activities, why it is better to talk about feelings- no more silent treatment, and the need to sometimes forgive. Rachel encouraged them to communicate what things are “off limits” to joke about and to listen to the vulnerabilities of others. The girls cheered and hurried over to shake her hand at the conclusion of the talk. It was clear to the adults in the room that these conversations need to continue, and we were grateful to this talented young woman for showing us how to get started!
Below is a link to an article written specifically for parents of young girls. Enjoy and find many more links to her website at the top of the article.
Rachel Simmons Addresses Parents of Young Girls
I hope that my communication with you encourages “talking points” to inspire weekend conversation with your children. Here are some “talking points” for this weekend.
- What was the message from this week’s Lunch Reading with Mrs. Teeing? Do you enjoy the poetry or stories more? Which group sang Halloween songs?
- If you are in Kindergarten- Did you enjoy the many project that went along with learning the letter H- crazy hats in the classroom, and lots of hair discussions??
- If you are in First Grade- How prepared were you for the visitors that spend the day learning about RPCS this Tuesday?
- If you are in Second Grade- What animals did you see at Roger’s Farm? What was the corn maize like to run through?
- If you are in Third Grade- What types of foods did you have at your Three Sisters Garden feast on Friday? Was there a favorite? Have you ever made popcorn that way?
- If you are in Fourth Grade- What did you learn from the information gathered by your grade’s rocket launch?
- If you are in Fifth Grade- What were the highlights of the field trip to Genesee Valley? How much money did you raise for Breast Cancer research during Think Pink Day?