This spring, I went on a journey with the head of Middle School, Steve Fry, to a land to which few are willing to venture: under the Middle School radar. We purposefully and willingly knocked on the door where customarily only students enter… and (believe it or not) we were let in. Why did we knock? Because we thought we should.
Our adventure was inspired by Rosalind Wiseman, the author of several books; two in particular, “Queen Bees and Wannabes” and “Masterminds and Wingmen,” set me on this path. I have never personally met Ms. Wiseman, but I “virtually” saw her at the Pennsylvania School Counselors’ conference where she participated in a Skype question and answer session before a rapt audience. I think she’s brilliant, and truly one of the ‘good guys.’ She writes to bring forth the voices that matter most in the body of adolescence literature: those of the tweens and teens themselves.
After reading “Queen Bees,” I was inspired to design a series of workshops regarding the roles girls sometimes play, the cost and benefits of each role, and how the system is perpetuated. I began by asking if any of the girls wanted to challenge the system, and if they did, did they know how? I encouraged them to take ownership of what they can control – their own choices, actions, and attitudes. The conversations varied greatly in each of the four grades in our Middle School, but many contained similar themes. These girls had a lot to say, and I felt privileged to listen.
My partner in crime, Dr. Fry, took a journey with the Middle School boys, exploring many of the themes generated by Wiseman’s “Masterminds and Wingmen.” They discussed topics generally relegated to conversations with only girls: self-image, confidence, trusting your feelings, and how to deal with the images we are bombarded with by the media about how they (our tween and teen boys) are supposed to look and act.
The next leg of the journey involved parents. We shared what we heard from our Middle School students. This spurred lively conversations among the adults and encouraged conversations at home. The last two stops on the journey ended where we began: with the two books. We invited parents to read and then come discuss and share what they thought, learned, and still needed to figure out, individually and collectively to support our kids.
I have never written a fan letter before; but I think I just did. Thank you, Rosalind Wiseman!