Brian Lehrer show on WNYC. One of the teams and I talked about the programming challenge and all girl education. I was extremely nervous going on the air and I had no idea what he was going to ask. But when asked if the all girl education made a difference my response was yes, and something came to the top of my head about how democratic girls are in the classroom compared to boys. I wanted to take the time to explain more of my perspective.
I have taught co-ed (9 years) and now all girls (5 years), and there are a few things I have noticed. One is girls like to talk, and they make sure everyone gets heard even students who tend to be on the quite side. I have seen girls make sure everyone has a chance to speak (even encourage those who haven't spoken) before moving on, where I didn't notice that in the co-ed setting. Did it happen, and I wasn't paying attention Probably, but it is more prominent in the all girl setting.
Studies have shown, girls might doubt their abilities, if they feel they have struggled with the concepts. They need to learn about how these struggles are what makes them good at certain subjects. They need to feel comfortable to take the risks, they need the encouragement and reassurance to keep going. They need to learn that the mistakes are great for learning and making us a success. I have become a different teacher teaching all girls. I have learned to celebrate more of the mistakes and explain how to learn from them. Teaching them about having a growth mind set than a fixed one.
I have also noticed that the relationships are important with teaching all girls. It is important for them to feel a connection to the lessons especially in the STEM related fields. While this is also true for boys, if they don't see the connection most will still try the problems, where most girls become disinterested. This is why the PBS strand was so important to me. It gave them a connection to younger girls. They were building a game to help others learn math programs that they knew. They discussed about what the girls in our Lower School could benefit from.
Technology classes tend to be male dominated and we need more girls taking and exploring these courses. When I taught co-ed, many of my elective classes were male dominated, in fact some were all boys. Girls in those classes sometimes felt out of place even with a female teacher. I did try to make sure they could work together to help ease the awkwardness (and it is awkward, think about a time when you felt out numbered and out of place). I like the fact that I get to teach these same technology classes in an all girl setting. Most of my classes still have the same amount of students in them. In fact, when I moved to an all girl school 5 years ago, I taught the same number of students in each of the classes. The class that has struggled is AP Computer Science, I am hoping with the changes we have been making to 8th grade Computer class that more students think about taking this course. They perceive it as a "Hard" class, and they have to do things similar to the 8th grade course that they really didn't understand. With this project now as the way of teaching in the 8th grade, I am hoping that more begin to understand that it is challenging but rewarding and fun at the same time.
Again these are only my thoughts, based upon my experience, reading studies and professional development. They are not perfect, but if recognizing the differences might make me a better teacher and help the under representation of females in the STEM fields then I am all for it!
If you want to learn some more about an all girls' education check out the National Coalition of Girls' Schools