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Category: Enlighten Education

True Colours Shining Through

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Guest blog post by Sonia Lyne, Enlighten Education Program Director, Victoria.

I grew up as a teen in the 80’s. It was an era with A LOT of great female role models. When I was a little girl, I looked up to female musicians who expressed their individuality, but rarely got into any real trouble. My all time favourite was Cyndi Lauper; her fashion was outrageous and her songs amplified fun and girl power.

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Today the Top 10 female singers for many young girls include the likes of Britney Spears, The Pussycat Dolls and Christina Aguilera. Yes, they are singing about girls who just want to have fun – but it is fun of a very different kind. The new idea of having fun involves looking glam, sexy, and living a life without consequences. Now it is all about girls going wild: “Gonna get a little bit dirty…”, ‘Dont cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me..”, “I’m Miss bad media karma, another day another drama…”

What infuriates me is that these artists have been able to achieve role model status simply by cultivating and conveying an image based solely on their overt sexuality rather than earning it through talent, hard work and integrity.

Don’t our girls deserve higher caliber female role models?

For me a role model should not just be a person or character who is in a position to influence us. There should also be an expectation that this person will show us an alternative way to live and challenge us to be our personal best.

As adults WE ALL serve as powerful role models for our children. They watch our every move, they imitate, they “try on” our behaviours and see which best fit.

I have chosen to put myself forward as a role model for young girls through my work with Enlighten. Do I feel qualified? I have put myself through university twice. I have travelled extensively. I married a great man, I mother amazing twin boys. I take care of the environment, I own my own business, I stand up for myself and I try not to focus just on my appearance. I am not the sum of my achievements though. Perhaps more important than any of these are my positive intentions. I want to be a great role model for my children and all the girls I work with.

Am I perfect? No, but I am ok with that. I am a work in progress. I have a strong background in the arts – everything from dance to design and am married to a very talented sculptor. I know that all truly beautiful works of art take time to develop. They are inspired by other works and enriched by the artist’s own experiences, dreams and challenges. I think girls love seeing my authentic quest to be the best person I can be – I too am inspied by them and feel they add brushstrokes which enhance my own personal development.  

Our children don’t have the luxury of seeing as many powerful role models presented to them in the media as we did growing up. It is more important than ever that we step up and put ourselves forward. We cannot wait until we are “complete” for who is to say when that might be? There is beauty in our rawness too.

I find the Beautiful Women Project, an American initiative, inspiring in its passion to show the beauty and wisdom inherent in all women.

Beautiful Women focuses  on the life experiences of thirty-five woman of all ages, and what truly makes them beautiful in their present moment.  They are the mothers, daughters, wives and neighbors you see every day – at school, at work, in the grocery store, in a doctor’s office waiting room, or walking through a mall.  Through their stories women can realize that they are not alone in their insecurity and quest for self-acceptance.  These women redefine the word “beauty” by showing us that what makes us beautiful is how we choose to face both the trivial and the monumental moments in our lives.”

Enlighten is planning to work closely with the Project’s founder Nancy Bruno to bring this initative to Australia in 2008.

We want to encourage all women to realise we can become the role models and the celebrities in our daughter’s lives. Because we are “all that” and then some!

Move over Paris and all her “bad gal” party cronies – here come women with real, true colours.

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P.S. This week myself and Jane Higgins (Enlighten’s South Australia Program Director) worked with 200 beautiful girls from Mater Christi College. You can click on the links below to read their evaluations of the event. We had such a wonderful day … it was honestly a privilege to have been a part of the energy. Their comments make me tingle with joy; they help shape me and fuel my desire to be the best role model I can be.

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P.S.S Speaking of role models, what a wonderful role model Victorian team member Brooke Parsons is! Brooke inspires me, and many others, not only through her work with Enlighten but in her role as the co-founder of the Young Victorian Stroke Support Group. She was featured in the Herald Sun on Feb 18th.    

The Journey – from Primary to High School

left-to-right-danni-and-enlighten-team-mebers-janeadelaide-and-sonia-victoria-reading-affirmations.JPG  “Sail away from the safe harbor. Dream. Discover. Explore.”

Mark Twain.

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The Enlighten team running The Journey at Ascham School.

The transition to high school for students can be exciting but also challenging as they must learn to traverse a new (and usually much bigger) landscape with different expectations and possibly with less individual nurturing than they received in their primary years. I thought it timely this week to offer some insights into how parents and schools can make this transition easier. I want to also say up front that Enlighten Education has a very powerful full day program aimed at making the transition as painless as possible – The Journey. The full Information Kit is provided here should you want to know more: the-journey-information-kit-email-version.pdf.

A number of schools now use The Journey as part of their own orientation program and report that as it is so structured, and focuses on developing key skills the girls really need and want ( eg: how to use timetables, how to make friends, managing stress, handling peer group conflict etc) it sets a positive tone for the year ahead.

Sarah Loch, Dean of middle school at Abbotsleigh, an Anglican day and boarding school in Sydney’s upper north shore has used our Journey program to compliment their existing transition strategies for the past three years. Sarah is well aware that for many girls there will be a period of adjustment:  “the majority of students take about two weeks to relax into the cycle of school and reclaim the confidence and self efficacy they felt in year six”.

What are some of the challenges the new high school girl must face? 

In most situations, primary students have one classroom and one teacher per year.  And yet at high school, there maybe up to eleven different subjects and eleven different teachers, all of whom will have different personalities and expectations. All of a sudden, students will need to be more independent, and an expert with timetabling and study routines.

A “big sister” is ideal. Loch says that mentoring is a method they use at Abbotsleigh to help guide the new students “the year seven students have a big sister in year nine, a peer support leader in year eleven and the boarders have a big sister in year twelve”.

And whilst the older girls can help with working out where amenities are and where they are expected to be after the lunch bell rings, their mere presence can also help with the real issue, the one that all new students worry about; friends.  Will I make friends? Will I fit in? Will everyone already be in groups?  A sense of belonging is identified as one of the greatest needs of young people in the middle years and the importance of friends cannot be underestimated. Girls tend to form cliques more than boys and involvement in a wide range of activities both within and outside school is the ideal way to encourage a range of friendships in different settings.  For many students though, this may be quite a traumatic experience and parents can really help by reminding them about basic communication techniques, such as introducing yourself and trying to remember names, be a good listener, be upbeat and positive and be sensitive to others in the class.  As much as other students may be masking their feelings, chances are they will be anxious as well.

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Emotions are running at an all-time high in those first few weeks that even the smallest incident may result in floods of tears. Parents can try and minimize those incidents by having their child as prepared as possible – have they bought all the items on the stationary list? Does she have a PE uniform? What days does she need to take it? Have you taken a walk around the school a few times so she remembers where toilet blocks are, where the library is etcetera?  Parents should help as much as possible with all the detail initially until she’s strong enough to take over – don’t worry, most teen girls are happy to tell mum and dad when to butt out! 

Being the new kids on the block, and the smallest, may result in some girls being bullied.  Bullying by girls is more often verbal, usually with another girl as the target. Recently, bullying has been reported in online chat rooms, and through email and mobile phones.

Children who are bullied experience real suffering that can interfere with their social and emotional development, as well as with their school performance. Need advice on coping with bullying? Try the following specialist web sites: Bullying No Way , Bullying in schools and what to do about it or Teach Safe Schools.

The frame of mind girls start the year in will impact on how they relate to the other students and new teachers, even on how they perform academically. Ideally, parents and schools will take time out before formal classes resume to pep them up. Girls should be reminded of their strengths and what they’ve achieved to date.  But most importantly year seven is a new beginning so encourage your girls to take a pledge to start the school year on a really positive note.

A key area many girls are anxious about is meeting new buddies.  As obvious as these pointers may sound, it’s worth reiterating them to your child:

  • Introduce yourself and remember names.

  • Figure out who you want to be friends with and why.

  • Get involved with after school activities (these will not only help you learn new skills but are a great way to meet like-minded girls. Try sports teams, debating, drama …so much fun).

  • Work on good conversation skills so you get better at listening and talking.

  • Be positive and upbeat (we might think it makes us look cool when we walk around saying how “lame” things are – it usually just makes us look whiney!).

  • Be sensitive to other people (would it kill you to say “Hi” to the new girl? She may be AMAZING!).

  • Take compliments politely and give them sincerely.

  • Be willing to risk rejection- it is possible that someone you approach may not be willing to make a new friend.

 Love and light to all the young girls starting High School this year, and to the parents and teachers supporting them.

 XXXX

Christmas Wish….

Don’t steal childhood away this christmas:  

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Love, light and laughter at Christmas and always…

Danni and the Enlighten Education Executive Team –

Fran, Sonia, Storm, and Jane XXXX

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Girl Thoughts…

I don’t usually post up our feedback pages from each event we run as although they are ALWAYS amazing, and quite often bring me tears, I guess I have previously questioned their broad appeal to those who do not know the girls personally. However, as I was reading through the sheets from our last three events this week, I  felt so moved I just had to share them! I also believe there is in fact broad appeal as it is vital for us to know what is going in our young girls minds.

I love that teenage girls are passionate, articulate, questioning and open to love and change. 🙂 Please take 5 minutes to skim through – these  comments will light you up. 

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Success – It’s all about eliminating the wrinkles and getting the right wardrobe – NOT!

cover-23.jpgI do not buy womens’ magazines. I gave up that self-destructive little habit some time ago. I got sick of the nasty after taste ( “I really am not coping as well as insert celebrity Mum am I”? “Wow, I had no idea I could / should loose 3 kilos by next week!” “Maybe I do need to update my wardrobe”…)

However, on a business trip last week I decided to dive back in for the flight and picked up a copy of “Vive”, a magazine promoted as being aimed at “Women Who Mean Business.” 

What sage advice for business women was included in the 128 pages?

  • 15 different types of wrinkle creams were advertised – yep, I counted – including the $930 La Prairie Pure Gold featuring “finely ground 24-carat gold” WHY gold ??? Just because we can?  
  • Seven of the fourteen business women profiled were either in the cosmetic / beauty industry or in fashion – including a  four page feature story on the stylist for channel 7 Kelly Smythe. She sounds a talented, hard working lady but the story seemed to be implying that the main reason channel 7 is rating well is that the stars now all dress “for success” and that Kelly is there to “keep a check” on how they all look. Surely there is more to success than just the right pants suit?  Another full page profiled an ex-supermodel, Carla Bruni, whose main claim to fame seemed to be that she “once dated Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton.” The magazine claimed there was more to her than just her love life – but if so, why mention it repeatedly? 
  • The fashion spread featured a model that must be no older than 15. She was obviously very young and physically almost pre-pubescent. Flat chested, all long, gangling limbs, shown wearing a 70’s inspired playsuit and enormous retro wedges in one shot – oh how “Career Gal”. And if the Editor knows her readers are older (and by the looks of all that anti-wrinkle advertising they are targeting over 35’s) what is this spread hoping to achieve other than making their readers feel inadequate?     
  • The recipe section ( you won’t see this in boy’s own BRW) featured silly, fiddly Hors d’oeuvres (what career women has time to whip up “Mulloway and caviar tartare”? “Iberico ham and quail egg tarts”??). I particularly resented the guilt loaded implication that crackers and cheese were now a definite no no and that even “risotto balls are considered passe.” Blimey – don’t come here for nibbles then.   

Oh look I could go on and on…and don’t even get me started on the tokenistic story buried up on page 114 on what Feminism means today entitled “The F-word” – mmmm, me suspects this may be a revealing little Freudian slip.

The F word that came to mind for me when reading this magazine was … frivolous.

So if it is not all about the clear skin, clothes, and the oh so modern meals – what does it take to be a successful businesswoman?

I do not profess to know all.Despite my deep love for children and years of experience teaching and designing special programs for adolescents, I will never be part of the “Mummy Mafia” who know it all about child rearing. And despite my business qualifications, years of working on improving business performance, and enlighten’s recent Award as AUSTRALIAN Small Business of the Year for Children ( Ohhh I have been dying to get this achievement out 🙂 more in a minute! )  I do not think we are perfect by any means. We just do the best we can on any given day.

However, I do think many of the ways in which we do business work well – not only as they are founded in best practice principles, but as they utilise our natural capabilities as women. I thought it appropriate to share one of these learnings here.

 HOW DO WE DO BUSINESS?

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We are transforming options for women.

“Women can and must help run the world…women, a natural resource should be mined for energy.”

Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project

In the majority of cases, women are still the primary caregivers. We appreciate the needs of working mothers; in fact, we are working mothers! Important considerations include working predominately during school hours, allowing time off in school holidays, and having flexible meeting times eg: after 8pm when the children are (hopefully!) in bed. We also choose to support other women in business and use working Mums who have started up their own “at home” enterprises wherever possible  – Steph’s Design for graphics, Jennifer Lugsdin for PR / Media, Judy O’Connell for blogging brilliance, Tanya Mc Grady for Taxation… 

Significantly, within enlighten we have also embraced what is unique and harnessed traditional female qualities; women are skilled in effective communication, empathy, and the ability to build relationships. Women are also passionate about the welfare of all children and feel a particular affinity with the plight of adolescent girls.

see-jane-lead-9780446581592.jpgIn the very interesting book “See Jane Lead”, by Dr Lois P Frankel, it is argued that many innate female qualities make women highly effective in the workplace:
“There is a new generation of employees who reject hierarchical leadership and respond to behaviors and characteristics that women have been traditionally socialized to exhibit. Employees, volunteers and children want to be muscled less and influenced more.”

Yes. YES! I believe much of my success is due to may ability to network and influence AND I also deeply resent being bullied – who doesn’t? In recent times I have had my own run ins with business bullies. Often bullies will claim that their behaviour is harmless, just part of “hard nosed business dealings.” I don’t buy into this approach.

This does not mean we have to succumb to the child like desire to be liked by everyone. Tough decision may need to be made, and although some women find it hard to be assertive, setting boundaries will ultimately earn you respect and may even get you promoted (“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” is another fascinating read by Dr Frankel). However, threats and power games destroy what might potentially be very positive, mutually beneficial relationships. 

Business is all about building meaningful relationships. With clients, with colleagues, with other service providers. Leadership development guru Sally Helgesen has gone so far as to declare women’s skills in building relationships and webs of inclusion as the “female advantage.” My business partner Francesca and I are both passionately in love with our business and when others see this, they fall in love with it too.    

I will be forever grateful to the men and women I admire who have also fallen in love with enlighten and supported us with our work. I thanked many in my previous entry after winning our State Award but want to also mention the wider network I have established that is so valued.

Clinical Professor David Bennett AO,  Head, NSW Centre for the Advancement of Adolescent Health, National President, Association for the Wellbeing of Children in Healthcare, Dr Michele Beal, Stress Management Specialist, Greg Byrnes, Program Director 2UE radio, Jenny Lewis, CEO, Australian Council for Educational Leaders, and of course last, but by no means least, Precedent Productions, The Commonwealth Bank and all the other major sponsors of the Australian Small Business Awards who have just made enlighten the Australian Small Business Champion, Children’s Services.   

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