A parent of one of our fifth grade students wrote an excellent article on the Huffington Post that details the stress our young students go through when applying to middle schools. I agree with her opinion that this is a lot of pressure to put on our fifth graders and it makes me wonder how I, as their school counselor, can help alleviate this unnecessary stress while also supporting our students and their goals for the future.
A Positive Spin on Bossy
Written by Amy Arndt
"Earlier this semester, my fifth grade daughter started deciding what
to do about middle school. Her elementary school offers an optional
sixth grade year, a gentle, loving cocoon that my husband and I found
extremely appealing, mainly because we love the school and the teachers,
but also because it felt safe and familiar. For kids ready to leave
elementary school behind, they have the option of attending the
appropriate feeder. For kids looking for a more challenging academic
experience, they can apply to a magnet or fine arts program. These are
competitive programs that require academic excellence, teacher
recommendations, entrance tests and essays.
If you ask me, this
is a lot to put on a 10-year-old. When I was going into sixth grade, my
biggest concern was which fluorescent earrings looked best with my
pinstriped jeans and if my friend Courtney would be willing to wear her
matching fluorescent earrings on the same day.
Never one to take
the easy route, our daughter boldly announced that she wanted to apply
for all four of the magnet/fine arts programs. I supported the decision,
but also informed my daughter that I was not filling out a single
application. If she wanted to apply, this was her gig. Together, we
created a project schedule on a poster board to log each school's
deadlines. My husband and I agreed to cart our daughter where she needed
to go, and to help her work through her essay topics, but we both
agreed that this was her journey.
One evening, while typing one of
the entry essays, my 10-year old looked up and said, "What's that word
that's a positive spin on bossy?"
Before I had a chance to answer, she said, "Leadership. That's it. Leadership skills!"
had an immediate flashback to kindergarten at the parent-teacher
conference. The teacher already knew us because she'd taught my
stepchildren, so she knew she could be straight with us.
"She's doing a great job," she began, "She's a big helper."
Uh-oh. I'd heard that line before. Our daughter was a "big helper" in pre-k as well.
she went on, "I have to take her outside, point to the sign above my
door, and ask, 'Who's name is that?' And she will read my name, and I'll
say, 'That's right. That's my name, and I'm the teacher. If I need your
help, I'll let you know.'"
With that, my husband died laughing.
From that point on, every teacher conference began with the story of how
our daughter needed to be reminded that she wasn't the teacher. This
made for a funny story, but it also gave me pause.
Was calling our daughter "a big helper" just steps away from calling her bossy?
Lately, thanks to Sheryl Sandberg's LeanIn.org and the Girl Scouts collaboration, Ban Bossy,
the word "bossy" is a bad, bad word. According to Ban Bossy, by middle
school, girls are less likely to take leadership roles, and that
unfortunate trend continues into adulthood. We're asked to pledge not to
use the word "bossy" at all, and I'm fully on board with that, even
where boys are concerned. Who wants to be called bossy anyway? But call
our girls and boys leaders? Sounds like a great idea to me.
for us, our daughter's kindergarten teacher (and, for that matter,
every teacher she had from that moment on) supported our daughter being
"a big helper." They encouraged her to help, and as a result, she was
able to channel her need to help in the right direction. Because of a
positive spin on bossy, my daughter had the confidence, at 10, to decide
on her own that she was ready to apply for an academically-challenging
school program. At 10, my daughter knew that there was something
negative about the word "bossy," but she understood that a simple word
choice could turn bossy into something powerful.
I give a large
portion of the credit to our underpaid, overworked school teachers for
preparing our daughter for middle school. So much of who our daughter
has become is due to the hardworking, compassionate teachers who cared
about our daughter's personal development as well as her academic
success. Sure, our education system is flawed, standardized tests are
the pits and we have work to do to educate all children on an acceptable
level, but the teachers who commit their professional lives to our
children deserve our praise.
On the afternoon that a stack of
important mail arrived, my daughter cautiously opened the envelopes
while I nervously documented it all on video. Each time she opened a
letter, her face lit up.
Afterwards, she promptly went outside on the
front porch, closed the door and screamed at the top of her lungs while
my husband and stepson and I gave each other high-fives. When she came
back inside, I could already see the change. She's ready to take middle
school by storm, and you can bet she'll be a leader when she gets there."
Original post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-arndt/a-positive-spin-on-bossy_b_5129792.html