Getting ready for back to school can be fun and exciting for some girls and dreaded by others. There is some great advice out there about how to prepare our girls for their return to school: purchase supplies, set academic goals, start going to bed a little earlier to get back into a routine. All helpful. But I am wondering about all “other stuff” we should consider to better support and equip girls. Here are additional tips and tricks to prepare her as she returns to school.
Firstly, help her to know how she learns. Simply put, there are three main learning styles. These are commonly known as VAK: Visual (with her eyes), Auditory (with her ears), and Kinesthetic and tactile (with her body and touch). Here is a resource for discovering her dominant way of learning. The reason this is so important to know is that when she knows her learning styles, she can embrace it as a source of confidence and she can then learn to self-advocate. She can start taking responsibility for her learning by asking for what she needs. If a teacher is providing instructions for a project orally, she may ask for the instructions to be written down in a handout. If a teacher is explaining a concept and she doesn’t quite understand it, she can ask the teacher to show her or give her an accompanying example or analogy. When girls learn that they all learn differently and they come to know their unique style, they can feel in charge of asking for their learning needs to be met!
Secondly, encourage her to learn outside of school. We all know, girls have to go to school and some of them really don’t mind. But often, girls say they find school so monotonous and really don’t see the point. How we can help here is empowering her to follow her interests and learn more about what she really want to learn about. There is nothing stopping her from exploring her favourite singer or performer, taking interest in social concerns, or researching more in-depth what her science teacher mentioned about volcanoes. She can play a very active and engaged role in her learning and she really should. When girls pair learning in school with learning outside of school, they tend to be more motivated to get their work done so they have time to learn what is much more interesting to them.
Thirdly, we can teach girls about the growth mindset, a term coined by Dr. Carol Dweck. Many of girls (and us) have a fixed mindset – or a limited perspective about our own learning. I hear it all the time, “I am not really a math person” or “I am just not a reader”, or “I don’t really understand politics – it is much too complicated for me”. All untrue and really poor excuses to not put in the necessary effort in order to grow. When girls cling onto these kinds of limited beliefs that will not grow. Instead, we can instil a new belief that their learning is unlimited and infinite. They can learn anything, they can always develop, and they can grow each and ever day – with concentrated effort and perseverance. A growth mindset is founded on the belief that learning is possible, they can get smarter, and that extra time and trying determines their academic achievement.
Finally, girls need to know how to motivate themselves – especially when they are bored or procrastinating. The best source of motivation is success. So, how do we encourage them to succeed? We start small and build on little successes. When girls learn that with effort, they can and will succeed, they are much more likely to continue to try and succeed more. Little successes could be asking questions to find out more about an assignment, completing 5-10 math questions before taking a break, or getting starting on a project the day it’s assigned and working on it 1/2 hour each day until it’s done. None of these little tasks take long but they can generate big feelings of accomplishment. To get little jobs done, setting a timer and time limit really helps – if there is a clear end point, girls are much more likely to get started. And this game like approach can make a boring job more fun.
I truly feel it’s a mixed season. It can be exciting to get back to a predictable schedule, to start a fresh school year, and to be ready to learn more and even make new friends. But, it can also be a difficult transition, letting go of long, lazy summer days filled with adventure and spontaneity and not knowing what the day will bring, to order, structure, and routine!
However, she, and we, feel about school and making our way back, let’s try to prepare her and champion her through it!