Torch - Fall 2016

Student Experience

Real Girls, not Supergirls By Leslie Anne Dexter, Head of Junior School, and Michael Simmonds, Vice Principal School Life, Operations & Student Wellness

A Supergirl is a fictional heroine with otherworldly powers and no weaknesses native to our planet. She can fly and has superhuman strength, speed, vision and hearing. Sometimes, we think we know a person like this who projects to the world a remarkable skill set that is leveraged at precisely the right time to accomplish an extraordinary goal. Sometimes, a girl thinks she is supposed to be a person like this. But this is a fantasy. Supergirls are not real. Too often, girls feel they need to keep up appearances, rather than admit that things might not be going as well as they seem or ought to be. Meanwhile, under the surface, they could easily be feeling lost and alone as they grapple with the various challenges of life. The negative side-effects of a culture of perfectionism are wide reaching, but one of the most destructive is the erosion of self- confidence. When students feel a need to be perfect, they avoid taking risks and fear failure. They duck situations where they might not get something exactly right. And so they miss out on the best moment possible: the one when they get back on their feet, brush themselves off and carry on. That’s precisely the moment when resilience and confidence can be leveraged from within to push away feelings of self-doubt and worry. It’s a real girl moment. At Havergal, we take those messy, confidence-building moments seriously. We encourage our girls to engage in experiences that test their beliefs in themselves and push them to the reasonable and age-appropriate limit of their capacity. From the classroom to the studio, field or stage, they extend their reach and sometimes feel the sting of disappointment. But when they are not happy with how something is going, they learn to push through and change it. When it comes to instilling confidence, we are guided by the language of our strategic plan ( Havergal 2020: Our Vision is Limitless ): “We will help each student find her passion and pursue excellence. Mindful of the need for balance, we will equip each girl with the tools she needs to respond to challenges. The school will be a place of support, belonging and engagement.” One of those tools is

Michael Simmonds and Leslie Anne Dexter.

confidence, which we consider a keystone quality—something that unites and underpins other skills and abilities. When we help our students develop a strong belief in their abilities to succeed when faced with challenges, obstacles and setbacks, we also help them become resilient problem-solvers. In our daily work, our patient and grounded faculty and staff navigate the intersection of theory and practice. They know how to inspire young women and are deeply committed to student growth. Our teachers, coaches, counsellors, Chaplains, social worker, school nurses, Guidance Counsellors and members of the Senior Leadership Team understand what it means to be a health- promoting school—and confidence is part of the story. So they embrace the themes, shared approaches and evidence-based best practices that translate vision into action.


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