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I am a mommy, scribe, and middle-school English teacher. I am trying to cope with being separated from my beloved. DoUWantMore? email me: theprisonerswife@gmail.com

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It's Gotta Be You

Posted by the prisoner's wife On 6:10 PM

If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.
~Audre Lorde

it is only october, school is in full swing, the first set of grades have gone out, i have a firm grasp of who my students show themselves to be, and i've noticed some troubling things: the girls in my class are dangerously mean.

my female students are consumed with spreading lies and rumors about each other and fighting at the drop of the hat because someone said something wrong about them, oft times to the detriment of their schoolwork. their relationship with each other is very twisted and convoluted. my group, my intervention group, is hard to get a hold on. one day they are friends, having sleep-overs and hanging out at lunch, and the next day they are on the verge of tearing each other's hair out. it's taxing. the mean behaviors exhibited by my female students is nothing new. women have always found it difficult to get along because we are socialized to compete (for jobs, men, scholarships, etc), but it seems to be getting more and more intense, and i am not the only one who has noticed it.

in 2006, Kristen Norwood, a graduate student conducted a survey of women for her graduate thesis. this study took a look at the behavior women display toward other women they have never met. she found,

The participants freely admitted that they often feel other women are being "catty" or spiteful in a petty way toward them and admitted that they behaved the same way. They cited several reasons, the most common being jealousy over physical attractiveness and attention from men. Other reasons included competition and jealousy resulting from self-esteem issues and from perceived similarities or differences with other women.

The issue of self-esteem, or lack thereof, is a major issue in my class. i often tell my students that people who speak negatively about someone else are really just trying to mask something about themselves. to that, i've heard groans, and the usual, "i don't got nothing wrong wit me!" but their behavior and history speak otherwise. the girls in my class have a lot of issues. many have lost parents, were abused, and don't know how to really feel anything other than animosity toward others.

i have quickly learned that being a teacher also means being a psychologist and a social worker. everyday i navigate tricky emotional landmines and put out fires before they become explosive. i am struggling, though, to impart wisdom and a sense of self-worth to my female students. i know that for me, just being represented through the material in class went a long way to provide positive images of self. conversations about self, about how to deal with others, and about the options that are afforded with education are also a must, but is that enough?

how do we teach our girls, and our boys, that they are enough?

9 Response to 'It's Gotta Be You'

  1. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/10/its-gotta-be-you.html?showComment=1224167340000#c1209867712672360841'> Thursday, October 16, 2008 7:29:00 AM

    I don't feel that conversations alone is enough, because once the girls are in their own environment, those conversations go out the door. Dealing with adolescents is a very difficult, volatile. One of the reasons is due to the mentality of adolescents and their changing internal functions (i.e. hormones, regulation systems). Depending on one action of prevention isn't feasible; these girls need to not only hear, but see, and experience some other avenues other than the ones they are participating in.


  2. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/10/its-gotta-be-you.html?showComment=1224192360000#c6523182309323731470'> Thursday, October 16, 2008 2:26:00 PM

    Beautifully.Conjure: i agree. it's just that i'm almost burnt out. and i'm not alone. my friend who is a school counselor in NY was telling me today that the girls at her school (it's a continuation school so they are b/w 16-21) are just as bad. they fight, they are mean and nasty. i am wondering if it's something about our culture. do we overcelebrate the "Mean Girls" and people like them?


  3. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/10/its-gotta-be-you.html?showComment=1224205800000#c6906632946084362390'> Thursday, October 16, 2008 6:10:00 PM

    I think it's a combination of our culture (aggressive, strong minded, independent) as well as the media (t.v., music). We tend to glorify "bad ass chicks," and give them more attention than women who are not as confrontational and who would rather walk away. When we stop labeling the "Bad Girls" as fun and entertaining (as well as stop giving them attention), then we will start to end the problem.


  4. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/10/its-gotta-be-you.html?showComment=1224211200000#c9166189777376841929'> Thursday, October 16, 2008 7:40:00 PM

    true. the glorification of toughness is a problem across gender. i mean a lot has been said for African-American males who seem to place more importance on being tough or hard, versus being smart. there is a new short film out called "Barack & Curtiss." it explores the complexities of Black masculinity. it's quite interesting. check it out: http://www.bhurt.com/barackandcurtis.php


  5. Lovebabz Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/10/its-gotta-be-you.html?showComment=1224290580000#c8702417889612600039'> Friday, October 17, 2008 5:43:00 PM

    As a former educator, I have stood in your place. It is daunting, but you are making inroads. You just don't see it and you may not see it until a student comes back and says YOU MADE A DIFFERENCE.

    Trust your instincts. Continue to give them food for thought. Maybe have a rap-session (do they still call them rap-sessions?...LOL).

    What I have found is that no one hears them...really hears them and no one engages them so they act out...they act tough...they act desperate.

    Continue to create a safe space for them to share and dream and think.

    God bless you for caring enough to be concerned. That is divine.


  6. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/10/its-gotta-be-you.html?showComment=1224292560000#c5296721997151870015'> Friday, October 17, 2008 6:16:00 PM

    babz: i hope so. because on the daily i can't tell if i'm making a difference or not. it's hard to even say IF i'm helping...*sigh* i will be getting trained as an IMPACT group leader next month & then i'll be running a support group at my school. so maybe that will help, but right now...i dunno.


  7. Christina Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/10/its-gotta-be-you.html?showComment=1224300060000#c7545321913836274174'> Friday, October 17, 2008 8:21:00 PM

    This has always been a disturbing subject to me. Mean girls! What is really disheartening is that a lot of these mean girls grow into mean women. I just don't get that!

    I know that you are wearing a lot of hats in your classroom sis, but you are a wonderful, caring teacher and you will make a difference in these students lives, when you least expect it.

    So... you getting ready for my lil boyfriends BIRFday party?? LOL

    Kiss the family for me.


  8. http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/10/its-gotta-be-you.html?showComment=1224339180000#c407398774005632230'> Saturday, October 18, 2008 7:13:00 AM

    Xtina: yes, mean women suck! and for my students, i try to warn/tell them that as black girls, this behavior if kept up can lead them to the prison system. i don't want them getting locked up & then falling into that cycle.

    and your little dude...his bday is on monday, and i'm throwing him a party next weekend (lord help me lol). so hopefully everything will turn out fun and fab!


  9. Lori Said,
    http://theprisonerswife.blogspot.com/2008/10/its-gotta-be-you.html?showComment=1224341160000#c8789839242280130694'> Saturday, October 18, 2008 7:46:00 AM

    I teach kindergarten and I see it at even a 5 year old level. The girls are catty. That has just never been a part of my personality, I don't like confrontation and will avoid it. I too think that it is a combination or glorifying tough girls on tv, the images, and the labels we give them. Positive, strong women needs/should be portrayed more. I think if you continue the wonderful work you are doing being a positive role model it will help. They are listening and you do make a difference. A friend of mine after an especially tough conference with a parent yesterday thought why am I doing this, am I making a difference type questions. She was feeling discouraged and right after that got a phone call from one of her former students who is now in 7th grade and in her class the first year she taught. She said she was doing well and thought of her often and missed her. My friend then said that is exactly what she needed. So yes you do make a positive difference in the lives of these young people.