PARTNER PODCAST 7-4-17: Advancing Humanity at The Agnes Irwin School
(LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST HERE)
Featured guest Mariandl Hufford of The Agnes Irwin School speaks with host Peter Gow about her work as director of the Center for the Advancement of Girls at Agnes Irwin (girls, day, 620 students, PreK–12) in metropolitan Philadelphia.
Topics discussed include specific research-based programs developed by the Center and how these are embedded into the school’s curriculum and culture at all levels—how a school can be a place where the driving question is not Why? but Why not? With a background in both teaching Classics and counseling, Hufford’s task as inaugural Center director was to transform “a string of words” into an engine of ideas and evolution.
A key component of Agnes Irwin’s program is the idea of “leadership identity”—the attributes of a leader rather than a set of skills. Through programs like Living Leadership in the Lower School and the complementary workshops in the middle school, the object is for students to visualize and deeply internalize what it means to be a leader.
Along with the specific resource references, Hufford also stresses the importance of paying heed to historical role models and to up and coming leaders and leading voices—including those of her own students, whose active engagement in the work of the Center for the Advancement of Girls has been a significant influence. (Later Hufford also mentions that older students address middle school parents and guardians as part of a broad-based family education program.)
In response to a general question on “perfectionism” in female students, Hufford stresses that unrealistic expectations about attainment and other aspects of life can engender perilous risk-aversion, stress, and above all aversion to seeking support in girls and young women. Also discussed is the idea that sometimes apparently good ideas have unintended consequences that are detrimental to students.
A final part of the conversation covered the ways in which the Center for the Advancement of Girls is a model for work that can advance all students—can advance humanity. Says Mariandl Hufford, “If you do the right thing for kids, it’s all good. If that can be grounded in research and not just anecdote, think about what incredible environments we’re shaping and what incredible opportunities we’re giving our kids.”
The Independent Curriculum Group wants to be a supporter and a “furtherer” of work like that of the Center for Advancement of Girls. Says Hufford, “We’re always stronger together,” and Agnes Irwin is interested in partnering with other schools, in and out of the ICG community. Hufford also noted that Agnes Irwin looks to the ICG community for support and reinforcement as it develops its own advanced high-level (i.e., not AP-designated) courses.
Email Mariandl Hufford
Resources referenced by Mariandl Hufford:
- A Letter to New Teachers (blog post) by Peter Gow
- A partnership with Bryn Mawr College’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research
- Books by Rachel Simmons:
- Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls (2002)
- The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence (2009)
- Enough As She Is (not yet published; available March 2018)
Agnes Irwin students also participated in a research study with Simmons.
- Katlyn Grasso, social entrepreneur and founder of the GenHERation network, “where young women and companies connect” to support the development of leadership and social and economic engagement among girls.
- The writings of Chimanda Adiche, in particular We Should All Be Feminists (2015)
- Themes (in particular “failing forward”) of the recent annual conference of the National Coalition of Girls Schools
- The work and ideas of Rosalind Wiseman
- A presentation to Agnes Irwin by Wendy Hill, a neuroscientist and head of Agnes Irwin, on the effects of technology and social media on the learning brain
- The Moulton Global Leadership Grant, an award sponsored by the National Coalition of Girls Schools won by Agnes Irwin students and to develop a leadership toolkit with a partner school in Tanzania
- Girls CAN: The Girls’ Council for Advancement Network, a student-driven Agnes Irwin Center for the Advancement of Girls program to promote the development of student-run leadership and support program at other schools
- Work at The Haverford School, a neighboring all-boys school, on leadership development in boys
The podcast can be found on Podomatic HERE.