When Bonner School, a Montana middle school, resumed classes this fall they decided to shake things up a bit and try to implement some changes that would help the students through the difficult transitional years of sixth through eighth grades. Studies show that body awareness combined with wide ranging levels of physical maturity, often cause girls to hang back and participate less in coed gym classes. But in a small school, same-sex classes were a scheduling challenge. To make it all work, in addition to gym the computer classes are now single sex as well.
After nearly two months, the results are even better than expected. Gym teacher Josh Illig sees more participation by girls that are less athletic and has seen their confidence grow, not just in gym class but in general. The boys are louder and more physical during gym, but exhibit far more concentration during the computer class time with the same-sex environment.
There is still plenty of class time and free time when the students share the classroom and develop the skills to work with each other. In this critical time though, the girls especially, have the chance to increase their body confidence and activity levels; both critical developmental issues in the middle school years. This preparation for the larger world of high school and beyond gives all the girls a chance to feel strong and confident, critical to success in any setting. The boys as well are benefitting from increased activity during gym and a more focused environment in another critical skill area, the computer class. The girls as well remarked that it was quieter and easier to work in the computer class with the all girl setting.
This is a win-win solution, requiring a little imagination and the determination to foster the growth of all the kids in one of the most difficult and important times in their schooling. The result; strong bodies and strong minds growing from resourceful and creative administrators and staff.
Once she knows how to read there’s only one thing you can teach her to believe in and that is herself.” ~ Virginia Woolf
This speaks to the power of books but also to the struggle for women to find ways to believe in themselves. One of the most powerful tools that any person has is their intuition, that gut feeling that may or may not drive decisions, depending on how well-developed it is and whether one trusts it. Recent research has discovered that there is far more to “women’s intuition” than old wives’ tales.
“Intuition is the result of the way our brains store, process and retrieve information on a subconscious level says Professor Gerard Hodgkinson of the Centre for Organizational Strategy, Learning and Change at Leeds University Business School. According to his research, intuition is a real psychological phenomenon which needs further study to help us harness its potential.
Through analysis of a range of research papers examining the phenomenon, the researchers concluded that intuition is the brain quickly drawing on past experiences and external cues to make a decision on a non-conscious level. In other words, it happens so fast that we’re not aware that the intuition actually stemmed from a supercharged burst of logical thinking.” from Rebecca Sato in the Daily Galaxy 3/6/08
When we discover ways to harness this supercharged thinking it will have added applications; but the first step is to trust this phenomena. Women especially are adept at this particular style of decision-making because the storage of emotional responses is more readily available in the female brain. Yet women are more likely to second guess themselves and look to external factors to drive a less intuitive response. This may come in the form of self-minimizing; I should try harder, I’m being too sensitive, too emotional, etc.
It is vital that we support the women in out lives in a way that allows them to trust themselves and teach girls the importance of looking inward for answers to life questions. For all the wonder of a great book, the secret to trusting oneself is not between the covers.
Coming tomorrow…how one middle school in Montana made a tiny change with big rewards for girls and boys.