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Girls need to speak up and be more “aggressive” in the classroom

Growing up, I had always been energetic, outspoken, and driven. I was the first to raise my hand in the classroom and lead discussion. Speaking up and doing well never bothered me. I prided myself on being the smartest in my 6th grade class.

Fast forward four years later to my 10th grade english class. Every semester I would receive comments from my teachers and my parents would eagerly await to read how I was doing in school. They were surprised to read that my english teacher referred to me as part of the “quiet corner” of the room. The so called “quiet corner” consisted of me and 2 other girls. It didn’t really occur to me that my teacher had been calling us that in class and that I was a part of it. It kind of just flew over my head.

Without teachers even realizing it, tons of subtle behaviors happen every day in the classroom that can single out or disregard students, especially young girls. Even from a young classroom age, boys tend to dominate class discussion and and participation. Studies have shown that boys sometimes talk even 9 or 10 times as much as girls do in class!

However, we can change this. I urge young girls and women to be more “aggressive” in the classroom. No, I’m not talking about a physically violent, hostile aggression. I’m talking about an assertive “aggressive” where your voice is heard, where you speak up and speak out!

Girls are often encouraged to be the “nice and quiet” ones in class. Take me and my friends for example - we were the “quiet corner”. Things can also go the other way. Teachers in the classroom may hush them.  Does “Shhh, girls be quiet" ring a bell? But everyone deserves to have a voice. Never apologize for speaking out. If you have something to say, you have the right to say it. Your opinion matters.     

You may not realize it, but speaking up now can help you so much in the classroom. Let’s look at your grade. Teachers tend to appreciate class discussion, opinions, and enthusiasm. Staying engaged by participating in class can help you boost your overall grade in the class. Having your voice and opinion heard in class not only helps you, but helps those around you. By sharing your ideas and hearing from others, you can help you and your peers expand and thrive.  

If you speak up now, it won’t just help you today. Small steps now can bring tremendous benefits in the future. In the past couple of years, many studies have shown that interest in certain subjects, particularly in STEM, decline greatly around middle and high school for young women because they are dominated by men in the classroom. Speaking up and out can spark interest and careers for the future. Saying what matters to you now will help create confident behavior that you can use later in life where you unfortunately, may have to face similar issues.

Some would argue it’s not good to come off too “aggressive”. It could make you seem mean or arrogant.  I won’t lie to you, the double standard to which aggressive men and women are held is there and ever so present. However, in order for your voice to be heard, you will have to be “aggressive”.  Don’t let the societal divide and ignorance hold you back.

I know it’s not easy to speak up. I’ve been there too. It’s a lot to ask. Even I still have trouble sometimes. After being in the “quiet corner”, I had to ask myself, what happened to the outspoken, somewhat bossy, young girl? Was it because I was intimidated by the boys in my class or was it because I didn’t like the class? And while I wish it was the latter, I knew it wasn’t.

From that day on, I made an effort to raise my hand and participate at least once every day. I would check in with myself here and there and ask, have you made a contribution yet? Slowly over the year it became natural. I didn’t have to push or ask myself anymore because it just became a part of my routine.  

Here at aavrani we are all about empowering young women and supporting their education through our dedication to the Shanti Bhavan School.  Even if it’s something as small as making sure you raise your hand at least once a class, I push and encourage you. We all have a voice. I have the power to make my own voice heard. And you do too.

Pria Pant
Team at aavrani

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