(This blog is from the Summer of 2016.)
This week, I wrote many checks to the “Girls Inc. National Bank.” If they were real, I would be in a lot of financial trouble. Luckily, they were simply examples for the fourth, fifth, and sixth grade girls of Girls’ Inc., demonstrating how and why adults write checks. This was part of a class where the girls created their own city, started their own business, and earned “money” by coming to camp each week. I was very impressed by how quickly they all learned the lesson; I do not think I knew how to write a check myself until middle school. Seeing the girls quickly master this lesson made me excited to teach our own next week. It also felt good to be of use for the staff by directly helping with the girls. I am sure that teaching the high school and middle school students will be slightly different. Even so, I feel that it will be helpful to remember that at one point or another, we all were (and possibly still are) eager to play on the playground, earn a gold star, and eat Nutella directly out of the cup with our fingers.
The week concluded with a final meeting at the Girls’ Inc. administration building. Past meetings have been dedicated to developing curricula, hammering out logistics, and learning the policies of Girls’ Inc. Nevertheless, this meeting focused on the staff’s cohesiveness as a group. Throughout the past few weeks, I have noticed that Girls’ Inc. is very dedicated towards making sure that everyone, including the staff, feels comfortable and accepted. For instance, before each meeting there is a “check-in” where each person in the room says how they are feeling and a goofy fact about themselves or the weekend. “Good,” “fine,” or “tired” are not acceptable answers, not because they are wrong, but because they are too non-descriptive. I have never worked with a group that does this. In fact, I have a hard time picturing a lab group, a study group, or even a sports team performing the same, simple activity, and with such frequency. While I do like getting work done and in a timely manner, it felt nice to be genuinely asked “how are you,” before digging into the agenda.
Another activity that drew my attention was the “crossing the line” game. The rules were simple: if the statement read aloud applies to you, you walk across the line (but you don’t have to if you do not feel comfortable). This parenthetical phrase is necessary as this game is more serious than fun; for example, some of the statements were “I have been bullied” and “my parents are divorced.” I’m positive that some of the phrases required a bit of courage to claim. One statement and response that surprised me was “I have felt lonely.” Most but not everyone crossed the line. This confused me as, I was sure that everyone could relate to this feeling. This caused me to think: perhaps we have different definitions of loneliness, or maybe the frequency of occurrence played a factor in their decisions. Perhaps not everyone felt comfortable with crossing the line, or perhaps it’s simply true. Whatever the case may be, it showed me that assumptions are more than likely to be wrong, and that discussion more than anything can allow you to relate to another person.