Girls should never be afraid to be smart

"Girls should never be afraid to be smart."
Emma Watson

Emma Watson, as you will know, played the role of Hermione Granger in all eight of the Harry Potter movies between 2001 and 2011. From 2011 to 2014 she studied at Brown University and Worcester College, Oxford and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in literature.

In 2014, she was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill ambassador, which promotes education for girls, and helped launch the UN Women campaign for HeForShe, which calls for men to advocate gender equality.

In her speech at the UN Headquarters in New York City in July 2014, she referred to feminism as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities” and declared that the perception of feminism as “man-hating” is something that “has to stop”.

In 2015, Malala Yousafzai told Emma she decided to call herself a feminist after hearing her speech at the UN. In January 2015, she spoke at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting highlighting the need for women’s political participation.

In that same year, Emma was placed number 26 on the TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people for her “gutsy, smart take on feminism” and her call for men to get involved in the fight for gender equity. She has argued that feminism “is not a stick with which to beat other women” but is instead about freedom, liberation and equality.

Many quotes have been attributed to Emma Watson, but one that really caught my eye is the title of my article – girls should never be afraid to be smart.

We should never underestimate the importance of high level learning and academic achievement – it is cool to be smart. In 2009, Michelle Obama spoke at a school for girls in London, where she said:

If you want to know the reason why I am standing here, it’s because of education. I never cut class. I loved getting As, I liked being smart. I thought, being smart is cooler than anything in the world.

Being smart is both cool and attainable. Every girl can achieve her optimal level of academic development through learning and teaching processes.
At Seymour College we want every girl to find a vitality and healthy balance in their lives, respecting and nurturing their abilities, interests, experiences, and passion to excel. We recognise that this requires an investment of time, energy and effort by the girls themselves, our teachers and also families. 

Current research on cognitive development shows that high-level ability develops with opportunities to learn in an environment of appropriate support and challenge.

We challenge the misconception that some people are born smart, and others are not. All girls can be smart through hard work – which is instrumental for achievement and for overcoming difficulties.

Girls also become smart through clear and strong messages of encouragement from someone who is respected – mostly their teachers and parents. Girls also become smarter over time. Teachers and parents need to be patient as change evolves and girls learn the lessons in life to become smart.

How are we helping girls to become smart? We are fostering a growth mindset through a school wide attitude that encourages effort and persistence, and frames failure and setbacks as opportunities for learning.

We are also providing as much choice as possible, and a wide range of learning opportunities. At Seymour, the core curriculum meets the basic necessities for education, particularly literacy and numeracy, but our girls benefit from an enriched program including field trips, camps, project based learning, mentorships, career education, partnerships with parents, and research based professional development for teachers.

Girls are more likely to flourish when there is a culture of collaboration, where teachers work with one another to the benefit of girls, where educators and parents regularly consult with one another, where teachers work with students to co-create fruitful learning experiences, and where girls are encouraged to engage cooperatively and respectfully with each other.

This is evident in our culture of E=K+D+C.

We know that girls become smarter when they can focus on learning activities that match their abilities and interests. Our new options in Years 9 and 10, and approaches in STEM and GEM, as well as the IB, allow girls to work at tasks and activities that are matched to their individual levels of competence and interests.

Girls also become smarter when they are involved in recognising and developing their individual strengths and talents. This is enhanced significantly when attitude and effort are applied.

At Seymour, we know that real change takes time, patience and diligence. We have made some bold steps forward, propelled by collaborative endeavours and a focus on higher standards, while emphasising the connection between hard work and achievement.

Seymour girls should never be afraid to be smart!

Kevin Tutt