November 19, 2008

Mean Girls

I've been teaching "Date Smart" for the last couple of weeks, to 8th grade students. Date Smart is intended to teach the students how to recognize abusive relationships, and what to do about it. Really rewarding and fun, but this particular school segregates the kids. I miss having the co-ed mix in the classroom (especially for the "skits") but I notice the students are more open with their input and questions without the opposite sex nearby.

Except this week. Why? Because this week I have the "Mean Girls" in my class. That's right, capital M capital G. It's incredibly challenging! Nobody talks. All eyes look to the Mean Girl section to see how they should respond to . . . pretty much anything. To help me cope I watched Mean Girls (the movie) last night. It's a classic. I wish I could share it with the class but I don't want to give them new ideas for cruelty and manipulation. I might share this small tidbit from the movie: "girls, if you insist on calling each other sluts and whores, you're giving the boys permission to call you that, too." Maybe girls don't care about that anymore but I think they're faking a callousness they don't feel. The ultimate commitment in junior high school, after all, is 'appearing cool.' Maybe it's cool to be called a whore. (Mind boggles. Eyes spin around. Blood pressure rises.)

Today we define the word "coerce." It'll be fun. I promised them it would be!


ing said...

I HATED junior high! I was one of the girls who was scared to say anything because I didn't know how the mean ones would react. I'd get these horrible migraines every Monday, and at least once a week someone would threaten to beat me up after school. The problem was, I didn't fight back. It seems to me now that while we are all civilized human beings, there are many areas in our lives where we have to be a little mean, a little ruthless, in order to succeed. I bet if I'd really fought back in the beginning, things would have been easier for me in the long run. A couple of years ago I landed my first corporate job, and I'm afraid that I observed a lot of people being mean to other people and undercutting their colleagues just to get ahead. It all seemed like a game, and I realized that I didn't know how to play it very well.

Just a thought - just rambling, I guess.

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Can you actually ask, directly, why is everyone looking at Betty over there? I don't know, I have no experience with teenagers, but I'd try to shake them up.

Probably completely unhelpful but I'll be damned if I'm OK with that whole Sheeple thing.

And why do you have word verification turned on? That bugger is irritating.

Cindy said...

That's great that you are doing this class. There's a teacher at Sophie's school who does this for girls too, and I just hope she's there when Sophie's that age. I had parents I couldn't talk to about these issues and ended up getting almost all my information from other girls and Teen Magazine. Think things might have been a little easier with better support? Uh, yeah.

Mean girls suck. I've told my daughter if she become mean I will kick her ass. I know--every effective parenting.

Valerie said...

That is so cool that you are teaching that program to that age. Someone should and it couldn't be me. I told Ed he gets the boys when they are in middle school. I wouldn't go back.

Could you do small breakout groups?

And why is 'coerce' going to be so much fun?

Red Flashlight said...

Ing - Junior High School was horrible for me also, and for the same reason! I agree. Sometimes we have to be a little mean. Here's what I tell the kids: "don't be shark food." Sharks are the true 'chickens of the sea.' They bump before they bite, to make sure their prey isn't going to bite back. Scuba divers report that if you hit a shark in the nose it will be more skittish, and may even break off an attack. Same rules for the playground and the lunch room. It's not mean to "bite back" a little to let the bullies know you're not an easy meal. Bullies are notorious for being total wimps if you confront them. Just like that guy you confronted that day in the park!

Hatchet - the Mean Girls were better yesterday. On the third day of class we introduce heavy topics with illustrations of what eventually happens in abusive relationships. Here's what kills me: almost EVERYONE can relate to the illustrations. Even the mean girls, and I think especially the mean girls. (I think their meanness is a response to being targets for abuse. Not an excuse, just a reason.)

Cindy - I admire your refreshing and straight-forward parenting technique. Down with namby-pamby parenting! "Don't be mean or I'm going to kick your ass!" I love it!! I'm sure you don't mean it literally. I'm sure an ass-kicking from you would be equally terrifying and supportive.

Valerie - I was so nervous on my first day of teaching this class. I imagined it would feel just like Junior High School. Know what? It wasn't like that! It was fun! Same characters, but a lot more perspective about what it all means, and many opportunities to breathe new life into battered little self-esteems.

Small break-out groups work really well but we don't do them anymore. We would if we had more instructors, which would require more funding, which would require a functional economy, since all of our funding comes from grants and corporate sponsorships. Boo hoo! Whine/moan/complain! Sackcloth, ashes, and all that!

purplegirl said...

RF - You forgot the rending of garments. ;)

I can't imagine trying to teach 8th graders. I have a friend who's a history teacher and loves it, but I just can't imagine dealing with the teenage drama on a daily basis. :)

Monica said...

Ugh. I remember grade school. (I went 1st - 8th grade.) Mean girls are awful, and encounters with them are probably the first encounter many of us have with abusive relationships. I used to pray every night that I'd be sick the next morning so I wouldn't have to go to school.

Anyway, it's awesome that you're teaching this class. Maybe it'll give them something to think about, too.

screamish said...

jeez Mean Girls...we had the same girls at school called the Plastics. With the usual bitchiness they pulled some True Evil stunts...

Terrifying. Wasn't Heathers kind of the same? Never seen Mean Girls the film.

refracted said...

Haha. That's a hard age.

LYDIA said...

Oh junior high... was it a good experience for anyone?

Shannon Piserchio said...

Thank you so much for your comment; I can't tell you how good it is to hear that someone's out there sharing such important information with kids at such a crazy time in their lives.

Keep up the good work and I look forward to reading more of *your* blog!