While at the Prep school on Wednesday, I was handed an envelope containing a letter; the letter, sent by eight rainbow-coloured signatories, contained an invitation to the Strong Girls Club, a group intriguingly describedas “not a large gathering and more of a subtle get together”. Founded by Miss Telford, and comprising pupils from Year 5 and Year 6, the Strong Girls Club aims to “support girls from around the world, but most importantly here at Brighton Girls”.
I was, of course, delighted to accept my honorary membership of this club, but I was equally delighted to note the effort and the endeavour. Not only was the letter beautifully written, but it contained a call to action and was accompanied by six hand-crafted badges which conveyed the following messages: “Don’t Give Up”, the words “Kind” and “Bold” and, “You Go Girl”. The last of these featured an adaptation of the American wartime poster “We Can Do It!”. The woman in this iconic image, sometimes referred to as ‘Rosie the Riveter’, first appeared on a poster produced by J. Howard Miller in 1943 for Westinghouse Electric. Designed as an inspirational image to boost female worker morale, and later adopted by the feminist movement, the figure has come to be seen as the embodiment of female empowerment, and she seemed perfectly at home within the package handed to me by Year 5 and 6.
What strikes me when I look at Rosie the Riveter and reflect on the work of the Strong Girls Club is the sense that strength comes through action – the emphasis is on the doing. Throughout the week, I have seen multiple examples of students being proactive, going out of their way to make a difference, turning their thoughts into actions. A Year 8 student emailed me to ask whether we could do something to celebrate the Buddhist festival of Vesak and, in consultation with Mrs Dowglass, helped to relocate Buddha’s statue to a central location and provided a resource to educate others; two students have taken it upon themselves to produce logo designs for the Skateboard Club (speaking of which, participants are making such swift progress that we have had to purchase two quarter-pipe ramps to provide the next level of challenge); and, today, I was visited by Year 8 students, Lauren and Bobbi, who came to present their thoughts on sports kit – they had prepared meticulously for the meeting and they spoke with such maturity and respect – I was very impressed and pleased they had been proactive in requesting a meeting. Likewise, our ‘Strong Girls’ in Year 5 and 6 have already gone beyond merely discussing what it means to be strong, they are now demonstrating strength through their actions: in writing a letter, they have shown both kindness and courage.
All this activity and proactivity suggests that many students are adopting a ‘can do’ attitude, and this means that we are building confidence that will be so crucial to them in the future. I read once that “confidence is the stuff that turns thoughts into action”, but I’ve always considered this a paradox – because without acting, without having a go, it is very difficult to develop confidence in the first place.
One solution to this, is to create an environment in which people feel comfortable to give things a try. It’s through small actions (giving a speech to the class, saying a public thank you, voicing an opinion, or writing and delivering a letter) that we develop confidence… and with confidence
We Can Do [Almost Anything]