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Defer girls learn meaning and purpose during lunch hours

Defer third grade teacher Nora Hard instituted Take 5 for Your Dreams to help girls boost their confi dence and combat negative behavior and statements. photo by Renee Landuyt.

June 05, 2014
Take 5 for Your Dreams was introduced to the Defer third-grade girls by teacher Nora Hard to combat the "mean girl" attitude.

"I saw a general boost in confidence," said Mary Beth Coffey, whose daughter joined the group. "She moves in any group with confidence and can hold her own."

Prior to the program, she went on, her daughter would come home upset because a classmate had made a disparaging remark about her clothing. "I would go through the pep talk."

Once Take 5 for Your Dreams attitudes were presented, as a weekly classroom volunteer, Coffey noticed fewer of those negative comments going around.

Coffey gave this example she witnessed how the program affected not only her daughter but in particular, two girls who wouldn't give each other the time of day at the beginning of the school year.

Recently, as the class was packing up at the end of the day, one of the girls reminded the other not to forget her math homework.

"It was the whole exchange of looking out for another. She accepted the comment and followed through. There was no snarking at each other," she said.

It was obvious to Hard callous attitudes had to be curtailed.

"I was inspired to set up the program after observing many of the girls in third grade struggling with friendships and understanding each other," Hard said, in an e-mail. "The behavior I witnessed before the program was arguing, leaving others out of play situations, not being able to make friends, worrying about what others thought and unkind words."

She decided to turn the behavior around.

Some 20 girls began meeting in January once a week during their lunch hour to learn how to be a leader, not be judgmental and promote positive self-talk. They were using a curriculum Hard created through research and adapting the teenage program Take 5 for Your Dreams to a third-grade level. Through the curriculum, girls learned how to stand up for themselves by journaling, taking selfies, movies, stories and discussion that stemmed from Hard reading inspirational quotes and poems.

During the meetings, the girls shared their wishes and dreams without the fear of being judged.

"This made me feel more confident and that I can do anything," said Natalie Coffey of how the program helped improve her self confidence.

Jordan Wharton said what she took away from the program: "To believe in yourself and never give up."

Sofie Cervantes added, "No one else is in charge of who I am and you should be yourself."

A lesson Skylar Carsten said she took away was to be bolder.

"This taught me not to be shy, not to change who you are and there's only one me," she said.

Hard said the parents also weighed in with comments such as my daughter learned "what truly is important;" "what a true friend should be"; "how to express her feelings"; "tools for life"; "how dreams can come true by hard work': "how to be conscientious of others feelings" and "how it is important to be yourself and others accept you for who you are and not who they want you to be."

The ultimate lesson, Hard said, the girls had learned by May was the importance of life equation — Do what you love + Make a difference in the world = Meaning and purpose.

"The girls have made more friends. They argue less, help each other more, do not take things as personally, have developed a stronger strength and confidence in themselves. They are true to their unique self and they understand what makes themselves and others happy," Hard said she witnessed at the program's conclusion.

During the last meeting, May 21, the girls decorated canvas bags in which to carry their journal.

"The girls wrote on their bags the positive character traits they received from the other girls during our 'selfies' lesson," Hard said.

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