- School: Western Connecticut State University
- Subject: English
- Number of Students: 2 classes of 37 students each
What is your goal in bringing Girl Rising into your classroom?
I wanted to inspire students to place greater value on their own education and really make an effort to get one instead of being satisfied to just “get by” and “get that piece of paper” (i.e., a degree). I wanted students to understand the importance of the liberal arts, particularly, the value of poetry, which Senna teaches, and to place their economic blessings in perspective instead of always craving bigger and better things. I hope students will recognize how much they have and how much others need. Students need to realize their good fortune in having so many opportunities is merely an accident of birth, not something they have earned. My students and I could have been born in Saudi Arabia, Nepal, or Egypt; we could have ended up being kamlari.
How do you use and teach Girl Rising?
I use the stories of Wadley, Senna, and Ruksana alongside Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House. I also use the Ruksana story, particularly the protective nature of her mother after the incident on the street with the young boys, to teach Rita Dove’s poem “Persephone Falling” and to teach the Persephone myth in my Introduction to Poetry course.
Which Girl Rising materials did you use?
- the film
- some sections of the curriculum – The Financial Empowerment Teacher’s Guide
Did you use any additional resources?
Yes, after teaching the Wadley story, I had students think about the impact
of natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods on young girls
and had them explore whether the impact would be greater on young girls
and women than on young men. I gave them the following articles
to begin their research:
Was there a community action component included as part of your
Girl Rising unit?
Not in the conventional sense of having any community events;
however, because the classroom is a small and very diverse
community, the group work and in-class discussion are a form of
consciousness-raising that will ultimately impact the larger community.
Did your students respond differently to Girl Rising compared to
other classes/units that you teach?
Yes, teaching this film helped personalize the issues for my students and
enabled them to have more empathy and compassion for people and
greater interest in comprehending global issues than they had from other
What was the impact of Girl Rising on your students?
Initially, my students really had no interest in the topic at all, but they loved “meeting” each of the “girls” in the film. They really wanted to know what happened to them. The film generated true concern. I was astonished at their response and very pleased with the results. I will now incorporate Girl Rising into my syllabus regularly.