Several aligning factors sustained my energy throughout the craze of the start of fall programs. Most significantly, a few comments from volunteers and girls displayed the real need for our “Work it Out” program. My observations across Girls Inc. programs reaffirmed that the greater Indianapolis area should also join the national discussion about school bullying – and correspondingly made me proud that Girls Inc. is doing our part. But we all have a lot more we can do, should do and need to do.
As October is Bullying Prevention and “Domestic Awareness month, if you haven’t already read a few articles posted on the Girls Inc. Twitter account, you can catch up about a few national and local bullying occurrences here:
The Playground Gets Even Tougher - The New York Times
An Important Message from Ellen About Bullying - The Ellen DeGeneres Show
Advisory Committee Defines Bullying, Surveys Policy - Greensburg Daily News
Bullying is a problem in Indiana and all over U.S., expert tells educators - IndyStar
During the first two weeks of our fall programming, I had a chance to observe just 9 out of our 40 Work it Out Programs presently taking place. At the start of the first session, we have the girls set their own guidelines for how we want the group to behave. After one program at Theodore Potter, I was amazed at the ideas this one girl wrote down:
Clearly, this girl and others know what kind of world they want to live in, how they want to treat others and how they would like to be treated. But somehow, there is still disconnect from their idealized world to reality. During a few of my programs, many of the girls exhibited aggression toward each other, or during a sharing component talked about girls being “stupid,” or a “getting into fights” with girls. However with a record number of Work it Out programs presently in session and to start during our winter and fall program cycles, I shall be interested to see what impact we can have on bullying amongst Indianapolis girls.
My favorite moment of these first weeks occurred while observing a program of 6-8 year olds at the Challenge Foundation Academy during their “put-up party.” Each girl said something positive and nice about the girl to their left. From comments to “she is really nice,” or “she is good at sharing,” all the girls and volunteers ended up smiling, giggling or laughing. As an observer, the room just felt so positive and enjoyable to be in.
Those ten minutes enabled some incredible sharing and girl power energy. Each girl was shown respect and gave respect to one of her peers. Now all we have to do is to figure out how to emulate that experience for all Indianapolis schools, playgrounds and environments that girls face – even if it is just for ten minutes a day.