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A Positive School Environment for Girls

What Administrators Can Do
To foster students' connectedness with school, the same University of Minnesota researchers offered numerous recommendations for administrators, including:
  • Turning mistakes into learning opportunities rather than punishment
  • Honoring accomplishments and competencies of all kinds, including helpfulness, good citizenship, improved performance, volunteerism, participation in decision making, and cessation of negative behaviors
  • Reinforcing expectations for positive behavior and academic success
  • Inviting all students, family, and community members to take active roles in the daily operation of school
  • Creating and displaying a common vision of success
In addition, I believe it is important for school administrators to heed parents' and teachers' concerns about the social well-being of students. It is essential that they listen carefully to students who report incidents of being disrespected or harassed. They might, among other approaches, invite speakers to discuss social issues affecting teens and establish age-appropriate programs to reach out to alienated or socially immature students, such as social skill building or lunch-bunch groups.

What Parents Can Do
For parents who want to encourage their daughters' connections in school, the study suggested the following strategies:

  • Be a model of respect, cooperation, and positive behavior in all interactions with the school.
  • Show interest.
  • Participate in school events.
  • Maintain regular contact with teachers.
  • Be present when things go wrong.
  • Volunteer at school and support school leaders.
This all sounds good in theory. But in the real world, the guidelines for if, when, and how to get involved appropriately in your daughter's educational world are probably getting blurrier and more confusing by the day. For one, you may be finding that now that she is past the elementary years, her school may not ask for your involvement or be as receptive to your requests. You probably have less contact with your daughter's various teachers. It also may be challenging to fully support your daughter's school if she is struggling academically or socially, if she and a teacher are clashing, or if you have philosophical differences with the administration.

Your daughter, too, may be giving you different--more likely, mixed--signals about how much she wants you involved in her school. The girl who used to enthuse about your being Class Mother, making costumes for the play, or demonstrating the dreidel game at the annual holiday party may become apoplectic whenever you show up on school property. This attitude is a normal reflection of your adolescent daughter's need for autonomy, but doesn't have to exclude you from the information loop.

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From Stressed-Out Girls: Helping Them Thrive in the Age of Pressure by Roni Cohen-Sandler, Ph.D. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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