I Am Malala

One of my goals for Girl Rising is to give the girls positive female role models to look up to. Too frequently, women and girls are portrayed negatively in the media. Young girls, such as the ones in my club, are left feeling the pressures of societal norms. They will spend their lives craving the attention of boys, using their body to get what they want, and letting go of their dreams because someone has made them feel like their goals are not important. The list goes on and on, but it just proves that girls need us now more than ever before. 

This week we talked about Malala. My friend Jamie tagged me in this video on Facebook and I am so glad she did because it inspired my conversation with the girls. This was a very timely discussion considering she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize this past Wednesday, December 10. None of the girls had heard of Malala before so I took the time to share her story. I talked about how in many countries around the world, girls do not have the right to go to school. Girls are expected to fulfill their role in the home. Their voices are silenced and their brains are discouraged from learning. The girls and I talked about how lucky we are to have access to a free, equal education. Education opens doors to endless opportunities that so many girls around the world are not lucky enough to receive. The girls were heartbroken by Malala's story but they were also encouraged by her courage and bravery in her fight for educational freedom. 

I showed them this extremely powerful video of Malala accepting her award: 

How can you be more like Malala? 

That's the question I asked my girls at the end of the video. What can we do every single day to be more like her? She stood up for something she believed in even though it was dangerous. She didn't let fear silence her voice. She fights for the 66 million girls around the girl that are deserving of an equal education. If she can do it, why can't I? 

The girls brainstormed all the ways they can be more like Malala. Here's a few ideas they came up with: 
  • When someone's heart is empty, I can fill their heart by being their friend. 
  • Helping a teammate when no one else is. 
  • Standing up for myself when people are being unkind. 
  • Confronting bullies when they are hurting other people. 
Malala's book is called I Am Malala. I encouraged the girls to think of a word to describe themselves just like Malala did. "I am ___________________." 

I am powerful. 
I am amazing. 

I am important to me. 
I am independent. 

This is our time to make a change. Giving a girl the power of an education is the greatest gift she can be given. Lets empower our girls to know they are worth it. Let it end with us. 

"One child. One teacher. One book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution." 


What's your power word?

Hi friends! Long time, no talk. The girls and I took a break for Thanksgiving but now we're back in action. :) Thank you to all of you who read every single week. It truly means a lot to me. 

This weeks lesson with the girls was inspired by a phone call I had with one of my student's parents this past week. She was concerned that her daughter is struggling to express her feelings. When she is upset about something, she closes off and gets angry at everyone around her. We've all felt that way before but it's important to know what to do with those feelings. So this past Thursday I wanted to address the topic of feelings and what we can do to combat those undesirable feelings that bring us down. 


After our usual journal talk to start the meeting, we had a discussion about our emotions and the actions that usually stem from those feelings. Here's some examples of the things they said: 

  • What do you do when you're feeling really happy? - smile, hug someone, scream, jump in the air, run around
  • What do you do when you're feeling angry? - kick something, scream, stomp my feet, yell at someone, throw something
  • What do you when you're feeling sad? - cry, stay in my room, keep quiet
I told the girls that those feelings are completely normal but it is beneficial to have a way of coping with them. I introduced the idea of having a "power word" - a word that acts as a source of power and encouragement when we're not feeling so great about ourselves. Here's the list of power words the girls came up with: 

I showed the girls my Little Words Project bracelets that I wear every single day. I get questions about them from my students all the time but I've never actually explained them to anyone. My bracelets say "empower" and "faith". Both of those words are extremely meaningful to me and they give me tons of encouragement on a daily basis. Whether I'm teaching, running, having a good day, or having a bad day, I often look down at my wrist as motivation to keep going and never give up. I wanted the girls to have something like that as well to give them strength when they need it the most. 

Each girl chose her own "power word" that was the most encouraging to her. They were super excited to make these and I'm happy that we got to share that moment together. 



The Perfect Body

This week in Girl Rising...

How this makes me feel is don't let someone make you think that you are not important
because you are important to this world. Don't let them steal your joy. I love you
and your joy. Don't put on makeup because the real you is beautiful. If they don't
that then I do. 

If people were more concerned with how they
looked on the inside then the outside, the
world would be a nicer place to exist.
Happiness and confidence are the prettiest
things you can wear. Outer beauty
pleases the eye, inner beauty
captivates the heart.

After last week's magical moments of sharing our insecurities, this week was all about discovering the root of the problem. Where do we get these ideas of not feeling good enough? 

I gave the girls the challenge of drawing a picture of a girl with the "perfect body". They split up and separated from each other to make sure that their ideas were not influenced by someone else's. This is what they came up with: 

We came back together to make a list of what qualities make up the "perfect body". They told me things like blonde hair, short in height, skinny, clear skin, and long, flowy hair. I asked them where we get these ideas from and together, we came to the conclusion that we see those qualities in princesses, dolls, models, and actresses. We looked around the room and realized that all of us don't really look like those people. I posed the questions: Does that mean I'm ugly? Does that mean I'm not good enough? Does that make those women better than me? All of the girls quickly confirmed that even though we're different, we are just as beautiful. 

After, we watched this video. I wanted to show the girls that the beautiful women we see in magazines and on TV are, more times than not, completely digitally altered. As girls, we spend so much time trying to be something that was actually created by a computer. The women that we idolize in the media have flaws and imperfections just like you and me. 

Then we watched another video to show that we see ourselves differently than the way the people in our lives see us. Sometimes, we spend so much time picking on our imperfections that we fail to see the qualities that make us unique and beautiful. The insecurities that we talked about last week are all that we can see. However, the people in our lives that love us don't see those imperfections at all. Instead, they only see our beauty, our talents, our shining personality that sets us apart from the rest. This video highlights that sometimes people see us better than we see ourselves. 

I encourage you to finish this sentence: 
I am beautiful because ____________. 


Voicing our insecurities

Oh my goodness, this week was MAGICAL. I almost wish someone else was in the room to witness the amazingness that occurred. I'm not even sure how to describe it to y'all but I'll try my best. 

This week's meeting was about bringing our insecurities to light by sharing them with others. I know it seems like such a sad topic but I'm planning on building on this topic in the following weeks and it will all come full circle. I started the meeting getting everyone together and I opened up to them about all of the things in my life that had made me feel inadequate or insecure. I pretty much told them everything and allowed myself to be vulnerable. I told them things that many of my friends and family don't even know. It was difficult, but I did it for two reasons: 1. to make them feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable too and 2. for those that may have similar feelings, they can rest assured knowing they're not alone. The girls were really interested in my story and it felt so freeing to share my story with them. 

When I told the girls they were going to share their insecurities with their friends in a small group, some of them immediately had a look of fear on their face. I expressed to them the importance of sharing because when we are able to voice the feelings that cripple us on a daily basis with someone, they become much less sad. When we share our feelings of self-doubt with others, it becomes much easier to keep sharing our story and it allows others, who might be struggles with the same thing, to feel as though they're not alone. Instead of allowing the feeling to have all the power, we can put the power back in our hands by opening up. 

The girls met in their small groups and took turns sharing with one another. It was beautiful to watch them listen and support each other. One that really got me was when one of my 3rd grade girls opened up about how much she dislikes her freckles. She could barely get the words out before she put her hand over her face and started to cry. The girls in her group immediately embraced her and told her that they love her. It was amazing. I was a mess just watching it happen. 

We met again as a whole group at the end and I gave them to opportunity to share if they felt comfortable. I was surprised by how many of them were willing to share their story. It was heartbreaking to listen to, but magical at the same time. There were so many tears but it was truly a turning point for Girl Rising. When we meet again this Thursday, I know that we won't be the same because we have connected on such an authentic level. They now know so much about me and I know so much about them. We share something so special. I have been forever changed and I hope the girls feel that way too. 

"Don't let comparison steal your joy."


Girls can do anything boys can do

This past Thursday's meeting of Girl Rising was truly inspiring. I finally had the opportunity to teach them something and the girls had the opportunity to share with one another.  In just 2 meetings, the girls and I have developed a deeper bond with each other that makes my heart so happy. Even though I already had a relationship with all 20 of the girls, it's wonderful to have this group to share our thoughts and feelings with each other. Girl Rising gives each of us the platform to develop our passions and grow into better people. Honestly, this club is just as meaningful and transformative to me as it is to them. I am truly blessed. 

Like I said in last week's post, the girls were each given a journal in which they can write their thoughts/feelings on a particular quote. I decided that we would spend the first few minutes of every meeting giving them time to share the ideas they wrote. I didn't really have high expectations for this week's journals being that it was their first time, but WOW. I was blown away by the critical thought and emotion that many of the girls put into their journal entries. These girls are between the ages of 7-9 and I was amazed by the mature reflections they were able to come up with. Here is one of my favorites: 

A girl should be two things: who and what she wants. 
A girl/woman should be anything she would love and deserves. 
No matter what people say. She knows her own rights. Keep working harder 
and climb the mountain to her dreams. Stand up and the show the world! 

Unbelievable. Can you believe a 3rd grader wrote that? If that doesn't inspire you, I don't know what will. 

I divided the girls up into groups and gave each group an index card that assigned them something to draw. They had to work together together to complete the task. The 4 assignments were: 
Draw a person who helps put out fires. Give that person a name. 

 Draw a person who teaches kids. Give that person a name. 

Draw a person who fixes cars. Give that person a name. 

Draw a person who helps the doctor in the hospital. Give that person a name. 

So as you can see, the nurse was a girl, the mechanic was a boy, and the teacher was girl. However, the group that did the firefighter decided to make it a girl! After this activity, we talked about gender stereotypes and and women and men are expected to do different things in this world. We made a list of "boy things" and "girl things". It was funny because many of them were saying that they enjoy a lot of the things we listed as "boy things". However, when I turned it around and asked if it's okay for a boy to do ballet or for a boy to play with dolls, they were slightly confused. I'm not sure how convinced they were on boys doing girls things but I expressed to them the importance of not being limited by one's gender. The most important thing to me about this group is that I expose them to information they didn't know before and plant the seed for future conversations. 

The quote for next week's meeting is: 

"Don't ever let them silence you, girl. 
You are sensational. What you have to say is important, it is relevant. 
You are undeniable. 
You are capable, indescribable, and revolutionary.
You are beautiful."

The girls will be writing their thoughts on this quote during the week and I'm sure they will impress me once again with their profound words of self-love and empowerment. :) 


The first day!

Hi everyone! First of all, thank you SO much for all of the positive feedback on the blog so far! It feels wonderful to know that I have so many people supporting me in everything that I do. I truly appreciate everyone who offered their kind words and assistance within this past week and I am blessed to know all of you. :) 

Anyway, this past Thursday was the first day of Girl Rising! HOORAY! It was amazing, wonderful, inspiring, beautiful...basically every positive adjective you can imagine. This day was very much anticipated by not only myself, but the girls as well. Every time I would see the girls in the hallway for the past two weeks, they would say things like "I can't wait for Thursday!" or "It's only three days away!" Their excitement made my heart so happy because there is no better feeling than knowing that what you're doing is sparking joy in others. 

After school on Thursday, 20 girls came into my classroom with big smiles and lots of zest (a little too much zest, but that's okay). It was beautiful to watch all of the girls, regardless of grade level, welcoming each other hugs and kind words. There was already a sense of community among them that came together so naturally. We started our meeting in a circle and we spent most of our time introducing ourselves and getting to know each other. Then, I shared my story with the girls and how this Girl Rising vision came to be. I told them about the class I took in college that originally sparked the idea and I told them about my passion for helping girls realize their full potential. After that, I distributed journals to each of them and gave them a few minutes to personalize them by drawing a picture of themselves doing something that they love. We came back together on the floor and I introduced a quote for them to write in their journal: 

"A girl should be two things: who and what she wants." 

We talked about what that quote means and they were all able to express to me that it means being able to do what we want without caring what other people think. They will get a new quote each week to add to their journal. Their task is to think about the quote throughout the week and write their feelings about it in their journal. I told them to think of this journal as a diary and that no one else has to read it but them. They all seemed very excited about it and I look forward to hearing their thoughts next week! 

We ended our time together with an activity called "The Pulse" in which we held hands, closed our eyes, and passed a squeeze with our hands around the circle. I wanted this activity to symbolize our unity and togetherness as a group. My hope is for every girl to feel as though Girl Rising is their source of family, support, power, and love. 

Overall, it was a wonderful first meeting! I couldn't stop smiling the entire time knowing that my dream is coming true right in front of me. The majority of the girls were very receptive to the things I was saying and I could tell they completely understood. However, because these girls are only 7 and 8 years old, some of them lack the maturity to reflect. I am confident, though, that as the weeks go on, they will grow into the little feminists I know they can be. :) 


What it's all about...

Hi everyone! Welcome to my very first blog! I wanted to start this blog as a way to document the journey of the brand new club I'm starting at my school called Girl Rising. I have chosen 21 girls in 2nd and 3rd grade to take part in this adventure with me. We will meet weekly for an hour each time. I am super excited about it and I wanted to share it all with you! This idea has been a dream of mine since I was 18 years old and I am so excited that it is finally coming true. So, for my very first post, I thought I'd share how it all began...

At the beginning of my freshman year of college, I decided to become a Women's and Gender Studies major in addition to elementary education simply because all of the other majors were too hard. I knew nothing about it but I had to choose one and it seemed easier than math. In my first Women's and Gender Studies class, I learned about things like feminism, the women's movement, and gender constructs in the media for the very first time. These were all topics that had never crossed my mind before but I was surprisingly feeling very passionate about them. I remember giving a presentation on how gender roles are portrayed in the media and loving it because I was finally finding an answer to the struggles I had been facing my whole life. The pressures to be thin, wear a certain kind of clothing, and "act like a lady" had consumed me for so long but I never understood the root of the problem. I never understand why this world was always making me feel as though I wasn't good enough. It wasn't until I was researching for that presentation that it finally hit me. I started asking questions like: Why are girls treating differently than boys? What does it mean to be a feminist? Why are we all trying to achieve this unattainable norm of beauty? I wanted to know the answers. I wanted to find a solution to these problems. 

That intro to WGS class brought forth a passion in me that I never knew I had. I was inspired to do something in my life that will help inspire young girls to not have the same feelings I had growing up. I don't want today's girl to feel like they can't do something because of their gender. I don't want them to feel like they have to change themselves in order to be beautiful according to someone else's standards. I want today's girl to feel powerful, strong, and equal so that they are free to be whoever they want to be. I want their minds and hearts to be free of worry, doubt, and fear so that there is nothing holding them back from accomplishing their dreams. 

The mission of Girl Rising is to empower girls to be their best selves and rise above negative influences that may come their way. Every day, girls are bombarded with messages and images that attack their sense of worth and power. As parents and teachers, we have the power to make sure that this doesn’t happen to our girls. Together, we can transform self-doubt into self-love by creating a safe space for community and discussion. I have created this club in hopes of inspiring young girls to love, express, and be who they truly are. The club will touch on topics such as self-esteem, body image, the power of having a voice, the privilege of education, and gender equality. My dream is to foster a culture where girls can be seen, be heard, and belong so that ultimately they can change their lives and create a healthier, more equal world. 

I sincerely hope that you follow along on this journey with me! My plan is to keep this updated with pictures, videos, and information about what we've been up to. I appreciate your support as I finally get to see my dream become a reality. :)