Well, our summer session is officially over and the time has come to hang up our shields and send my Girls’ LEAP shirts to the bottom of my t-shirt pile. This whirlwind and inspirational experience has left me with so much joy and so much yet to process. In all honesty, the summer was really challenging. The work was tough, the students were not always excited to be in our program and the stereotypical truths about females played out before my very own eyes. Some girls were especially timid and anxious while others could only discuss their physical attractiveness and viewed their outer beauty as their most important asset. I believe one of the most difficult parts was learning to practice what I preach. How do I take up space? How do I assert my boundaries and care and love myself better? These are very real questions that I have yet to process.
While this experience reinforced my preconceived notions that teaching is hard, it also showed me how rewarding an educator role can be. I know for a fact that my words and actions had a very real and positive impact on specific girls. One in particular mentioned how I “opened her mind and motivated her to step beyond her comfort zone.” Little statements like this made me feel like I really contributed to a positive and strong female culture. Also, I now feel more comfortable facilitating discussions about challenging topics, such as conflict resolution and sexual harassment. I recognize the value of being physically active, that children’s bodies were made to move and engage with the world. I believe the organization gave me a powerful cohort of women to learn with and from. I particularly enjoyed our weekly meetings that focused on professional and personal development. I was certainly frustrated by some aspects of the organization. I wish that it was more efficient and better organized and that despite working in the field, away from the office, I would have been more in the loop about Girls’ LEAP events. I recognize that this is a challenge in any organization that is struggling financially and the experience has actually inspired me to learn more about business and marketing/financial practices. I so strongly believe in the cause and I would love to see this organization expand and grow qualitatively and qualitatively (serve a larger population).
It is challenging to sum up my experiences in one word. But, as we end each of our sessions with a Girls’ LEAP is… “fill in the blank” I will complete this post with a Girls’ LEAP is… exhilarating.
I am now in the thick of the Girls’ LEAP experience. In the past week, I have met more than 70 new girls! Each session contains a range of 15-20 girls and they all have their own vibe. Three of the groups are made up of girls aged 12-14 and the fourth group is composed of mid-teens. It is said that once girls reach about 7th grade, their self-esteem begins to drop. While I do not have before and after snapshots of the same girls, it is remarkably clear that the younger girls feel more comfortable volunteering and speaking in large groups. Before working with this older group, I was thinking that our program would run more smoothly with older students. The older girls/young women are more receptive to the class and understand more clearly why learning emotional and physical self-defense is worthwhile. But, as my supervisors have mentioned, potentially at that point it is too late to prevent an incident and their self esteem is already suffering, thus I am glad we work with a younger population too.
Most recently, I have been challenged by navigating my role within our team. There is an on-site lead teacher, other college Teaching Women and Teen Mentors. I am working on how to provide both positive and constructive feedback to my colleagues while maintaining respect for their positions. I believe these skills will be transferable to other work places as well as academic settings. I am also challenged by the content of our material, often needing time to reflect upon my own self-esteem and feelings. Also, I believe the charts we do with how to manage anger and conflict will positively contribute to the way I interact with all people. Looking forward to another awesome month!
I am thoroughly enjoying my internship with Girls’ LEAP (Lifetime Empowerment and Awareness Program). The beginning has been a lot of behind-the-scenes work. I’ve entered pre-survey and post-survey data as well as attendances for programs that took place this past winter. While this work has been rather dry, I have enjoyed gaining a clearer understanding of the administrative work. There is a tremendous amount of infrastructure in place that allows our programs to run as seamlessly as they do. The office is a friendly and relaxed environment where colleagues stop for a moment to discuss Black Lives Matter and other social-justice issues in the news. I look forward to gaining so much for such kind and passionate colleagues.
After my initial week in the office, I spent a weekend chalk-full of training with the other college interns. The other interns are kind, passionate, and inspirational women and I feel tremendously lucky to be working closely with them this summer. We completed our first 2-week intensive where we worked with a Lead Teacher and group of about ten girls. I was concerned that the hardest part would be how well I could do a bully-role but it turns out engaging the students and avoiding discipline issues is quite a bit harder. I really enjoyed the opportunity to build positive relationships with the girls and know a bit about them rather than calling them to gather so we could learn the next move. I imagine my skills will develop and improve throughout the summer and this will certainly transfer to working in any type of direct-service job.
I also believe that the skills we teach really benefit ourselves in the process. I feel like a more confident and “worthy” person after the many conversations we have shared and I believe the conflict-resolution tools will continue to benefit me in any personal or professional setting I encounter.