To the Editor:
I was inspired to respond to your article “Michelle Obama to Tap U.S. Students in Equity Campaign for Girls.” I have been following first lady Michelle Obama’s work, and earlier this month she announced a global campaign for girls’ education that is called #62MillionGirls.
I believe that it is important to create awareness about girls’ education, but not only in developing countries. Attention also needs to be paid to developed countries, including here in the United States, in Canada, and in the United Kingdom.
I am fortunate to have experienced the power of helping a student during my teacher training last year. The student, whom I’ll call Jasmine, was a 9th grader in my classes. I could tell from my interactions with her that she was intelligent and had the potential to achieve high grades, but her motivation was low. She explained that the reason behind her lack of motivation was that after graduating high school she would get married and not be expected to get a job. She further explained that she could have a stable life without wasting time, energy, and money on her education.
My job as a teacher is not only to deliver my lessons, but also to tap into student motivation. Doing so is often about changing his or her frame of reference. Jasmine’s reference was the cultural expectations of family and the precedent her older sisters had set. My conversations with Jasmine were a way to build trust and help her recognize a new reference point.
Toward the end of the school year, Jasmine changed her course selections to prepare for attending university, and she had a new aspiration to become a social worker.
This anecdote shows that the impediments to girls’ education are not only prevalent in developing countries, but can also be an issue in a developed country such as the United States.
But for me, this is not just about policy or economics. This is deeply personal, because I come to this issue not just as a future policymaker in education, but also as someone who was initially denied an education because I was a young female. It is deeply disheartening to know millions of girls worldwide are dealing with the same, if not worse, circumstances. But what is most inspiring to me is that we as a nation are taking the time to create awareness about this issue.
A version of this article appeared in the October 28, 2015 edition of Education Week as The '#62MillionGirls’ Push Is Relevant Here in the United States, Too