How girls undermine their ability to achieve in school

Educator, Rachel Simmons, Author of Odd Girl Out, discusses how girls self-edit and undermine their own ability to succeed in school.
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How girls undermine their ability to achieve in school

There's never been a better time to be a girl and girls are more successful now than they have ever been. At the same time, I believe girls are living in a "yes, but..." society. Yes be strong but you better be nice to everyone. Yes be ambitious but don't be selfish. Yes have dreams but be modest and humble. And the cost of those mixed messages which to me are really a sign that our culture isn't sure how it feels about girls being strong. The result of the mixed messages that girls get about power, about whether or not they're allowed to have it, is that girls often diminish themselves at just the moment when they should be strong. In a classroom, you will often hear girls raise their hands and say, "I'm not sure if this is right but...", that's how they start a sentence. They apologize or they make their sentences sound like questions, which is called up-speak. Can you imagine if all I did was talk like this no one would want to listen to me; and I talk with girls about that all the time. We've got to address it with them because it's not just what you say it's how you say it. The pressure that girls experience to be perfect at all times also affects how comfortable they are speaking up in class. Even the brightest most accomplished girls-especially those girls-when they sit in class they edit in their minds what they're about to say. They hear the teacher ask a question and they practice in their heads, what am I going to say? Am I going to say it right? How am I going to say it? And by the time they're ready, the teacher has moved on to another question. This is a problem because part of being successful is being able to participate in a conversation, to be able to contribute ideas not just look good on paper. And so, when girls fill that need to be perfect every minute, they are missing out on the chance to develop those muscles that allow them to learn how to be debators, how to be active contributors to a discussion.

Educator, Rachel Simmons, Author of Odd Girl Out, discusses how girls self-edit and undermine their own ability to succeed in school.


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Rachel Simmons

Author & Educator

Rachel Simmons is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator, Rachel works internationally to empower young women to be more authentic, assertive and self-aware.

Rachel is a Vassar graduate and Rhodes Scholar from New York. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, she is an experienced curriculum writer and educator who works with schools and organizations around the world. She currently develops leadership programs for undergraduate women at the Center for Work and Life at Smith College. She has previously worked as a classroom teacher in Massachusetts and South Africa.

Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and is a contributing writer and advice columnist for Teen Vogue.

Rachel has appeared on Oprah and the Today show, and appears regularly in the national me- dia. Odd Girl Out was adapted into a highly acclaimed Lifetime television movie. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her daughter and West Highland Terrier, Rosie, who is currently taking private workshops with Rachel to learn how to stop bullying other dogs.

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