Let’s Get Real with Role Models

DAISY SAVAGE – HEAD OF UPPER SCHOOL: When I was growing up, I had to sneak off to a friend’s house to play Barbies because my mother did not think such dolls were proper role models for young girls. Eleanor Roosevelt, Gloria Steinem, Amelia Earhart, those were appropriate role models! At 8-years-old, I wasn’t thinking about that; I just wanted to play dolls.

Now, of course, as an educator and a parent, I have a slightly different perspective. I still think girls and boys should be able to play with dolls, but they should also be able to play with trucks and legos, build robots, seek election to high office, fly to the moon.

We expose children to all sorts of opportunities and tell them that all things are possible, but real live “role models” are also imperative.

We expose children to all sorts of opportunities and tell them that all things are possible, but real live “role models” are also imperative. Girls need a Sally Ride and boys a Jim Henson to understand that the future is available to them no matter their race, gender, or religion.

However, there is another important ingredient. Too often our role models in the headlines reach an almost action hero status; there is an illusion that they are special. How do we help children realistically see themselves in those big shoes? How will they rise to the occasion: how should they act, how should they prepare? What should they be doing now? And what will other people think of their efforts?

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Putting the “Fun” Back in Youth Sports

DON DIEBOLD, DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS: When I was a 10-year-old boy, every piece of equipment was carefully laid out and my uniform was clearly organized the night before every game. It should not have been difficult to sleep, but it always was on those nights. Why? I guess I just couldn’t wait for the fun.

Research is showing a significant decline in youth sports participation

Sadly, research is showing a significant decline in youth sports participation. Although there are many factors contributing to this decline, the number one reason cited by youth is that sports are just “not fun.”

Sports are just “not fun.”

How can we, as adults, focus on reinforcing the fun factor in our sports programs?

Amanda Visek*, an exercise science professor at George Washington University, surveyed approximately 150 children, 40 coaches, and 60 parents to identify all of the factors that make sports participation a fun prospect for kids.

She found 81 factors contributing to sports-related happiness. The top three factors were:

  • being a good sport
  • trying hard, and
  • positive coaching.

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8th Grade: The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow

CHRISTINE WILLIAMS, DIRECTOR OF SECONDARY SCHOOL COUNSELING:  Frequently, middle schools are physically attached to a high school or they exist as a stand-alone environment for students in Grades 6 through 8. According to research, however, this model has multiple flaws. A far more successful model is the K-8 paradigm—which I have witnessed successfully implemented at The Peck School.

A far more successful model is the K-8 paradigm

When Peck’s eighth grade class returned at the start of this school year, I was delighted to see how each student matured over the summer months. The magical growth from seventh grade spring to eighth grade fall is transformational. From day one of the new school year, these students embraced both the privileges and the responsibilities of reaching the pinnacle grade at The Peck School.

Where else but in a K-8 environment could the very challenging years of adolescence be positively offset by the opportunity to be role models and leaders for eight other grades of younger students? Our eighth graders are not living in the shadow of older high school students. They are at the top of the ladder, and have finally reached (as one wonderful alumna recently described quite eloquently) “the pot of gold at the end of the Peck rainbow.”

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