Growing up is no small task.
Many of us remember our adolescence with a healthy dose of gratitude that those days are behind us. Growing up female now is more confusing than ever, with cyber bullying, social media concerns, an unprecedented class work load, standardized tests, and extra curricular activities to navigate on top of the physical / emotional changes that occur during that time.
Girl’s Leadership is an Organization we’ve been admiring for quite some time as an incredible resource for girls, their caregivers, teachers, and parents. They offer workshops and camps in select cities. One of our Adventure Nannies, Aryn works as an educator with Girl’s Leadership, so we sat down with her to learn more about this life-changing organization.
In a nutshell, what is Girl’s Leadership?
Girl’s Leadership is an amazing organization that was founded by Rachel Simmons and Simone Marean. It focuses on the development of communication skills in relationships. We have workshops for girls in grades K-8 that are offered once a week for a month. Adults attend with the girls, helping to foster the parent/grandparent/trusted adult relationship with the girl attendee. In a nutshell, our workshops help girls to “know themselves and what they believe…empowering them to create change in their world.”
What are the benefits to having all an all-girl camp?
Our summer day camps are fantastic — I’ve done one in Boulder and one in Denver. I haven’t attended the sleep away camp in Massachusetts, but I’ve only heard amazing things about it. We weave curriculum matter into the opportunity to make summer camp memories with peers. The camp gives girls the chance to have strong female role models as their counselors, while practicing some amazing communication strategies with other girls. On top of that, we’re creative, silly, and energetic about our afternoon dance parties!
What are the major changes you see in girls when they take a Girl’s Leadership course?
Most of all, I love seeing the communication between adults and girls blossom. Being a leader is often about stepping forward and trying a new tactic or way of navigating a challenge. This is a challenge not just for the girl attendees, but for the adults as well. We always say at the beginning of our workshops that the material we cover is “not just girl stuff” and that adults are working on these relationship issues in their own lives. It is great when I get to witness moms and daughters role playing difficult scenarios, and trying out the tools we teach. More often than not, when we review the at-home work that we ask participants to do, it’s not just the girls who say that they practiced working on a skill; adults will also share that they tried a new strategy with a partner/work colleague/friend. As an educator, I love seeing that the strategies we teach have real-world, in the moment application.
Can you list some of the tools or skills your students take away a Girl’s Leadership course?
One of my favorite tools we teach is the “Leadership Stance” — the combination of confident body language and eye contact (which, in Girl’s Leadership we call F.L.E.C. — fierce lady eye contact). We practice these tools during workshops, developing the muscle we need to be able to work on our relationships. Starting around fifth grade, many girls start getting quieter, stop playing games, start folding up their bodies, and stop raising their hand as much. These two tools combined ask girls to be empowered and communicate effectively, even if the conversation is difficult. The biggest game changer of tools is usually the “Double Sorry” during a conflict. Part of being ourselves – and NOT being perfect — means being able to admit when we’ve made a mistake. In most conflicts, both sides have usually done something to make the situation bigger or worse. They both have contributed to the problem. The “Double Sorry” is an opportunity to own our mistakes offer a sincere apology. This is the tool that often gets the response from adults, “I tried this with my spouse/partner… and our argument totally changed.”
What are some of the tools or skills you use to connect with pre-adolescent and adolescent girls? In my own personal experience that was a very challenging time.
I love the way that the work I do with Girls Leadership has been incorporated into the professional hat I wear as a private educator for pre-adolescent and adolescent girls (and boys!). Being able to listen, share insight, and let young people see that navigating relationships is challenging at all ages has been valuable for building a rapport with teens. You’re right, that age is really tough. Being able to be authentic, silly, non-judgmental, and caring go a long way when connecting with pre-adolescent and adolescent girls and boys.
What are some of the practices Girls Leadership suggests to mothers and daughters in terms of communication with each other?
Well, at the heart of this relationship is the notion that we all need our “back-up bunnies” — those people who will stand by us no matter the circumstance. Oftentimes, that’s found within the pair that attends the series. These workshops allow parents and girls to learn and grow together. Everyone has the chance to learn and practice communication tools, including expressing feelings, navigating conflict, and sharing mistakes.
One of the best practices I see between mothers and daughters is the practice of sharing your feelings. We talk about inside vs outside feelings and the importance of being authentic.
For example: if you are angry your daughter didn’t unload the dishwasher, you might also be anxious you won’t leave the house on time, disappointed she didn’t listen to you, or even hurt. All she probably sees is the anger, and might respond with anger back. By sharing your inner feelings also, you might find these interactions become much less loaded. The same goes for when she acts out at home- at Girl’s Leadership she learns to communicate her inside feelings – that she’s concerned she’s not getting invited to a friends birthday, or that she’s embarrassed by something that happened at school.
What’s next for Girl’s Leadership?
Great question! I’d encourage everyone to check out the website — www.girlsleadership.org and sign up for our newsletter. There’s always exciting updates. Also on the website is a link to resources that have been shared by the organization.
Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
Girls Leadership has meant SO much to me both personally and professionally. It has been such a bright spot for me, and I always look forward opportunities to spread the GL message and love. I feel invigorated every time I teach a workshop, and I love having the opportunity to encourage others to practice flexing their resiliency muscle. Being an educator with the organization truly fulfills so many parts of my path as a teacher, woman, friend, and partner!
Aryn is a Colorado-based Educator for Girl’s Leadership, and a private educator for Adventure Nannies. Learn more about her here, and feel free to email her with any questions regarding Girl’s Leadership!
Girl’s Leadership offers professional development courses for educators, parent – daughter workshops, day camps, overnight camps, parent education, and community partnership programming.