When someone asks if your daughter is a good student and you say yes, usually that is a good thing, right? But, being good is usually associated with being quiet and compliant. These are not qualities that we should applaud above all else, particularly in the classroom.
In a classroom setting, it can be a curse of the good girl if a teacher overlooks a student because they know she is capable of being independent, therefore, does not intervene to help herself extend. It can be the curse of the good girl if she is afraid to speak in class and offer her opinion. It is a curse of the good girl when a student attempts work she knows comes easy to her so she will excel, but is actually regressing her own academic abilities by not accepting challenges.
At Toorak College, we do not seek girls applauded for letting themselves be overlooked. We aim to foster courage and confidence in our students so that they are given every opportunity to grow and thrive throughout their academic journey. We want our students to be critical thinkers, risk takers and creative visionaries who hold strong opinions but also know the right time, place and platform to share them.
How does the curse of the ‘good girl’ student come about?
There are both academic and social impacts to being a ‘good girl’ student in the wrong environment, which have huge effects:
Academically, she loses her value of opinions
The first part to the ‘good girl’ piece is that more often than not, she has not been taught how to think for herself. If the opportunity arises where she gets to think or speak for herself, that voice could be taken away by someone else disrupting the class or another student requiring more attention than her. Her spirit and fire within her have been extinguished at that moment. As a result, she may not value her opinions anymore or she may lose the desire to share them with others. If this pattern continues, her journey into university would pose a greater risk to her growth because she is not trained to be resilient in open classrooms or be vocal in forming arguments toward academic studies or even truly valuing her own voice.
Academically, she lacks creativity and critical thinking
As school curriculums have evolved to match the power of globalisation and the landscape of future jobs, there has been a strong shift in focus from students being compliant and seeking good grades, to students wanting real life skills and knowledge for the workforce. Educators and researchers believe that what students require in their learning is the ability to think critically and creativity, have strong communication skills and have the confidence to be challenged. Critical thinking is a skill that can help when we need to problem solve or perform organisational and managerial tasks. “Critical thinking is thinking clearly and rationally. It involves thinking precisely and systematically, and following the rules of logic and scientific reasoning,” states J.Y.F Lau, author of An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Creativity: Think More, Think Better. As the world and workforce become more digitally-inclined, creativity becomes essential to real life and the workforce. As Lau again quotes, “As for creativity, it is a matter of coming up with new and useful ideas, generating alternative possibilities.” This does not mean a student needs to be able to paint a picture or be a fictional writer, rather it means that when a situation arises where they may encounter roadblocks or problems they might struggle to solve, creativity is a skill that can offer other ways of progressing that they or their superior may not have thought of prior. We need to give students practice of coming up with their own thoughts and solutions, and not their teacher’s views, from a very young age.
Socially, she feels overlooked
The ripple effect is large when a good student gets overlooked, which includes loss in confidence, lack of resilience and little personal growth. It is important that the teacher can establish a culture where children feel able to claim ownership of their academic journey. “The classroom does not just belong to the teacher. It belongs to the children as well. A moral classroom does not express just the teacher’s personality. Walls are full of children’s artwork or writing, and their projects are displayed,” as quoted in the book Moral Classrooms, Moral Children: Creating a Constructivist Atmosphere in Early Education. A student who feels empowered to ask questions, vocalise their opinions and is engaging in class are more likely to take risks and opportunities that cross their path beyond the school gates as well.
Socially, she shys away from opportunities and challenges
Instead of playing the lead character in her own life, our ‘good girls’ play the supporting role. She may happily help her peers but not ask the same in return. She can also easily stand on the sidelines and not get immersed in the action that is in front of her, despite knowing in herself how capable she would be. Her ability to deflect opportunities becomes second nature and she struggles to put herself first when it comes to her personal and academic growth. As time goes on, this type of behaviour can cause all sorts of barriers, including loss of courage to take risks and go outside her comfort zone to explore skills, knowledge and opportunities that she had never dreamed of.
The curse of the ‘good girl’ has always been in existence but now we are more educated, more progressive than ever to be attuned to all types of students and how they best learn. At Toorak, we are strong advocates for girls education and believe every girl should be equipped with the confidence, resilience and passion to be able to go out into the real world and achieve their aspirations. If your daughter aligns with any of these emotions or feelings, it may be time for a change in environment.