Today I filled-in for a 5th grade teacher at one of my favorite schools that I’ve worked at in New York City, an all-girls school for 5th-7th grades, in lower Manhattan. Since the first day I worked there, I’ve been struck by how independent, mature, and spunky the girls are. Their spiritedness can be a bit hard to handle, sometimes, but for the most part they seem to be spilling over with personality in a way that I haven’t seen in other middle schools (of the charter and private schools that I’ve worked in through the temp agency that employs me, SchoolProfesionals).
My first guess is that the absence of boys has a lot to do with the outgoing attitudes of these girls. Young boys tend to have a harder time with self-control in the classroom, and they can demand a lot of attention from teachers. And of course, girls tend to become shyer and speak up less when boys are around, because girls are still, in the 21st century, living in a world where men dominate conversations.
But the unique environment of this school also stems from the way it’s structured. The girls have regularly-scheduled breaks throughout their day, when music blasts into the hallways and they dance and sing to get out their energy between classes. They also have tap-dancing lessons and African drum sessions as part of their curriculum. And it’s a small school, so everybody knows each other well.
The school inspires me because it offers so much more to these girls than simply disciplining them. It helps them flourish, and that’s what education should do.