I recently returned from a fantastic week at a State Leadership Conference with some of my student council leaders. This was the first time any of them had ever experienced this type of conference so it was fun to see the lights turn on to new ideas and the connections made and relationships formed with other students who, on Day One, were complete strangers. Each day was filled with ways to connect with others and leadership nuggets that they could take back to their home schools and implement this fall.
During one of the general sessions, Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabees (and for those of you who don’t know–this book was the basis for the movie “Mean Girls!”), spoke to these young leaders about stereotypes. Her passion for helping students and educators weave through the social challenges of adolescence is contagious. While she covered a lot of the typical stereotypes I see walk the halls every day at school, I was struck a bit by what was missed after something my daughter said to me the week prior.
Since my youngest is currently doing a summer internship in Texas and was unable to come home for the summer, I made the trip south to visit her for a week. In addition to her internship, she is also taking a physiology class that has a pretty grueling syllabus. Stressing about the demands of the class, she received an email for a study session another student had set up and I encouraged her to go. Her response saddened me–she said, “I never go to the student-led study groups. They never take me seriously.”
Whoa. So often we focus on the kids who fit into the typical stereotypes or who are bullied and teased because of their race, weight, or because they are quiet and reserved. At least, these are the stereotypes that were covered at the conference and honestly, are the ones I hear about in any type of training on bullying. But what about those kids/young adults who are dismissed because of how they look or what they are involved in? The pretty blonde cheerleader is stereotyped as the typical mean or ditzy girl–who isn’t smart and obviously doesn’t excel academically. Same thing goes for the huge linebacker–who tears up the opponent on the field but obviously never tears it up academically because there’s no way a guy can be athletically gifted AND smart.
I would venture to say that all students–actually, all people–have been the victim of stereotypes that were completely unjustified. So the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” holds true. When we open the book and begin to read, we uncover the true story. Same thing with people–because everyone’s story is bigger than what you see as you pass them in the hallway at school. The thing is, we all face battles and we all have a deep desire to be accepted and loved. Even the queen bees and wannabees.