Working in an all girls school can be a daunting experience – yes, even for other girls (or women for that matter).
When I first started I was definitely disconcerted. Upon entering the room for my first few classes I found the experience extremely eerie. It was dead silent. So silent you could hear a pin drop. No one would raise their hand to answer a question. A lot of hesitation. A lot of looking back and forth between their peers. A lot of uncertainty, self-consciousness and not a lot of resilience for some. This atmosphere of wanting to be perfect. Of wanting not to be wrong and look bad in front of your classmates.
Then I realised, as students, there was a massive difference between boys and girls in a group. However, I never really saw it until it slapped me in the face.
If I had walked into a co-ed classroom, the reaction would’ve been different as a myriad of personalities and genders all get thrown into one room. I would’ve had the student who constantly raised her hand to answer questions. I would’ve had the student whom constantly raised his hand to ask questions. The student who keeps wanting to go to the toilet. The student who can’t keep away from their mobile phone. The students whom have a very short attention spans and are a magnet for each other. Short of handcuffing them to the table (which we aren’t allowed to do) there seems to be nothing you can do to keep them still and on task.
Other experiences may be different but walking into my first single sex classroom in a single sex school was definitely memorable.
It took two months for the pin to drop and suddenly the girls got used me to. Once they got used to me, sussed me out, figured out what made me tick – the other pin dropped. The tears, the tantrums, the friendship issues, the mean girls, the depression, the anxiety, the crazy hormones running around their system that they didn’t know how to handle. I don’t believe a lot of adults know how to handle them either. In a school with a total of almost 500 bodies – with 6 brave male staff members (3 of them teachers) – being in an all-girls is a rude shock when you understand that at any point in time half the population of the school is going through PMS.
I’ll let that sink in for moment.
Then I turned a corner. I knew I had looked at the situation reminiscing – I was missing being in a coed classroom. I missed the boys and their humor, their craziness.
After a few months I looked around again and I found everything that I was missing. And I found it all in an all-girls school. The characters, the wild ones, the individuals, the misfits & the popular ones. There was one thing I did notice more so than anything else working in this environment and I loved it. It was because being in an all girls school ALLOWED girls to BE GIRLS.
Where else would you have an entire cohort of high school in the hall singing and dancing along to Disney’s Frozen?
Where else would you have almost 100 students at a time participating in activities like Zumba and Yoga?
Where else would you have students whom cut out 500 hearts for every student and staff member to write get well messages for a staff member on sick leave?
Where else would you see students braiding each other’s hair during breaks?
And so to them, I dared to be a girl and I ask you to help them dare to be themselves.