March is officially Women’s History month – as I was recently reminded when a reporter called Kent Place School to ask what we were doing in our classrooms to commemorate the month, particularly being an all-girls school. A faculty member and our Communications Director joined me for the interview and we had a wonderful discussion! But as the reporter probed for specific examples for her article, we had trouble isolating a specific classroom moment which would best exemplify this month’s focus, since by being a school for girls, we seamlessly weave women’s history and leadership into our curricula on an ongoing basis.
We talked to the reporter about our eighth grade “Portrait of Leadership” class, where each girl follows a leader for the school year, including interviewing her or him in person and delving into such questions as, “What makes a good leader?” The leaders chosen are both male and female, but are often women the students have admired through their Middle School years. As an example, one of our students contacted the CEO of the Girl Scouts, Anna Maria Chavez, who recently came to the school to be interviewed and to talk to the entire Middle School about her leadership story!
We also talked about our Leadership Lunches, when Faculty, Staff and Upper School students grab a lunch tray and gather around a community leader, to hear about her history and how she made leadership decisions in her life to date. Visitors to campus this year have included the Mayor of Summit, Ellen Dickson and New Jersey’s first woman Chief Justice, Justice Marie L. Garibaldi. These were inspiring hours, during which our students could hear first-hand the interesting and unique stories of these women leaders.
We talked about how our students practice and participate in leadership roles on campus – which often includes taking appropriate risks, applying grit and showing resilience when something does not go as anticipated. Our students learn leadership first-hand – which we define as each student individually finding her voice, leadership style and interests, as her confidence and focus evolve from Primary School, through graduation and into her college years and beyond!
All-in-all, we appreciated the reporter’s questions, her subsequent article AND the exercise of thinking specifically about how we talk about women in leadership in our daily lives on campus. However, as with any specifically designated day, week and or month, I think schools have a responsibility to their students to consider how they integrate all people into their curricula and into the “pores of their schools” every day of the school year!