10/5/18—It is a complex time for girls and young women as they work to make sense of the world around them. As a result, it is an important time for our girls’ schools to support students as they learn and grow—particularly as we work to foster their independence, confidence, and compassion.
Needless to say, the theme of our fall Educating Girls Symposium, School Communities: The Power of Many Voices was a timely one, and the keynote speakers and sessions did not disappoint.
Our keynote speakers highlighted the power of voice and language, and how we best support our girls in their use.
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, President Emerita of Spelman College and author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race, opened with a powerful session, reminding us of the importance of speaking up and ensuring that from our youngest girls to oldest, they are supported and guided as they notice and learn about difference such that we are fostering environments that are equitable and inclusive. She impressed upon us that we must nurture our girls’ voices in a productive and constructive manner.
At the end of the day, psychologist, executive director of Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls, and author of Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood, Dr. Lisa Damour, challenged us to stop being critical of our girls’ use of language so that we can be more curious about it. Rather than suggesting that our girls avoid particular ways of speaking, we should be providing them with a toolbox of language skills that afford them choices depending on the circumstances. As Damour suggests, “Voice is not, and should not be, a unifying thing. [We must] aim to recognize all voices in a community and all of the voices in each girl,” such that they are able to challenge traditional structures in a way that best suits them and the situation.
Bottom line? Voice and language are powerful and important tools for our girls and young women. As a Coalition, and as educators of girls, we must always be thinking, modelling, and guiding our girls to speak up and out in ways that allow them to be heard and that positively effect change.