CGS Professional Development Blog
Girls Leadership Institute Conference
April 20-22, 2015
At the end of April Janine Gorman, Lisa Hood and I travelled to Stanford, California to attend a conference at Stanford University hosted by the Girls Leadership Institute. The Girls Leadership Institute is a not-for-profit organization whose research is headed by Rachel Simmons, the woman who wrote Odd Girl Out and Curse of the Good Girl.
The focus of the conference was to train the participants in the Girl Meets World curriculum, created by Rachel Simmons and Simone Marean, which “…equips adolescent girls […] to meet the world with integrity, self-awareness, and personal authority. The program teaches a set of communication and conflict resolution skills that girls can put to effective, immediate use in all of their relationships” (Simmons & Marean, 2010).
During the three days at the conference we were led through a series of risk-taking games and role-playing activities that taught us the value of educational theatre. Educational theatre teaches emotional language as participants are asked to practice the physical and emotional reality of conflict. Throughout the conference a large emphasis was placed on teaching girls how to have successful relationships. Rachel spoke about how girls don’t automatically know how to have a conflict or how to have a conversation. They cannot be expected to be the best at every relationship they forge. Rachel expressed that a world that asked girls to be great at relationships from birth would create feelings of shame, as it is an unrealistic request.
A strong connection was made between growth mindset and successful relationship building. Rachel described growth mindset as the idea that repeated effort will increase a person’s skill in any context. She explained that girls are socialized to think that everyone should automatically like them and that they should inherently be good as building relationships. Therefore the mindset that girls bring to their relationships is that it should come naturally otherwise they must be bad at it. Rachel explained that adults have been very arbitrary in telling girls what practice yields. She said that if girls think I just have to practice my communication skills so that I can have healthier friendships, their perspective of their relationship set backs becomes less daunting.
Rachel and Simone also spent a large amount of time teaching us about emotional intelligence and building emotional vocabulary in girls. Rachel explained that adults think that there should be social commission for girls to be vulnerable with one another since they are such social beings however that is not often the case. Girls don’t want to seem weak in front of others as there is a constant pressure for girls to be effortlessly perfect and never require help. Rachel described that emotional intelligence allows girls to have a quick and powerful connection to the authentic self, a GPS for the soul. She explained that emotions help girls have some sense of agency. For example, if the lights are turned off and a person says, “I feel scared” the outcome will likely be that the lights are turned back on. A reaction will be created. Similarly, in a relationship, if a person says, “I feel hurt” the listener can react and respond. However if no feeling is described no response can be given. Rachel also described that sometimes girls share an emotion that doesn’t work out for them and that girls need to understand that that’s ok too. In speaking about emotional vocabulary Rachel expressed that there is a difference between knowing you are angry and blind rage. She said, “Having a more robust vocabulary allows you to play music in your relationships rather than the chopsticks”. As a group we explored the difference between inside and outside feelings. Inside feelings, such as fear, jealousy, regret, anxiety and embarrassment, are primary feelings that are the root of outside or secondary feelings such as anger and annoyance. Inside feelings typically cause the other person to develop empathy and encourage listening while outside feelings tend to lead to a defensive response.
Some of the recommended readings that Rachel and Simone shared with us include:
- Carol Dweck: Mindset http://mindsetonline.com/
- American Psychological Association, 2007, report on the sexualization of girls: http://www.apa.org/pi/women/programs/girls/report.aspx
- Laurence Steinberg: Age of opportunity: Lessons from the new science of adolescents – speaks about how the adolescent brain is just as plastic as the 0 to 3 year-old brain. The intensity of emotion during this period is heightened. The presence of peers and even thinking about peers increases risk taking. What does that mean for girls and aggression? When girls are in the presence of peers they tend to be meaner. http://www.laurencesteinberg.com/books/age-of-opportunity
- Susan Cain: Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking – http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/about-the-book/
- Carol Gilligan: In a different voice – speaks about the ways girls reason, morality, and ethics http://www.amazon.ca/In-Different-Voice-Psychological-Development/dp/0674445449
Conference: Assessment Now Conference
Date: Nov. 3-5
Location: Victoria BC
Attendees: Megan Shaw, Lindsay Sanden, Kim Larson
Ken O’Connor: The Way Ahead in Grading and Reporting
Ken O’Connor’s keynote focused on recognizing the need to critically examine established grading practices, appreciating the complexity of grading, and knowing how to make grades accurately reflect learning.
Anne Davies – Assessment in the Service of Learning
Anne Davies’s keynote focused on student involvement in learning, clear assessment targets, co-constructed criteria, evidence/exemplars, and triangulation of evidence for assessment: observation, conversations and collections of evidence.
Damian Cooper – Refining Fair: How to Plan, Assess, and Grade for Excellence
Damian Cooper’s keynote focused on the notion of “fairness” and how to redefine our understanding of assessment. Teachers were asked to consider “five imperatives” to guide their work with students:
- Curriculum must be meaningful, coherent and relevant
- Instruction must be responsive to students’ needs
- Assessment must be informative
- Grading must blend consistency with professional judgment
- Communication about learning must be truthful and transparent
We also had the opportunity to sit down with one of the session presenters: Ainsley B. Rose to discuss our current assessment practices at CGS. Ainsley shared his own journey about refining assessment practices. Specifically he spoke with us about a report card without letters and percentages that he had created in collaboration with a school board in Quebec. The report card demonstrated students’ progress rather than percentages or letter grades.