Teaching 5th-8th graders how to high-five may seem ridiculous, especially since kids those ages should know how to do something so simple. This was something I did, however, when I went overseas in the summer of 2015 to teach English in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. At the school where I was teaching, the kids were split up into four groups and one of those groups consisted of 5th-8th grade girls ages 10-13. During one of my first sessions teaching these girls, I walked up to one of the girls to give her a high-five. She answered a question and I wanted to say “good job.” What happened next changed my whole approach to how I spent my time instructing these girls.
When I held up my hand for her to high-five it, she barely touched her hand to mine and then placed her hand back on the desk. That is all it took for me to realize these girls completely lacked confidence. The whole high-five thing seems minuscule, but I knew that if I was going to teach these girls anything, it was that they did not need to be afraid of giving someone a solid high-five. I went around to each girl in the group until they all gave me a good whack on the hand. They found it to be so fun and empowering that for the rest of the days I taught at the summer camp they came up to me and gave me a confident high-five.
When I realized the impact that a high-five had on these girls, I wanted to find other ways to empower them and help them gain strength in their gifts and talents. One night while watching a YouTube video, I saw an ad for the Always #LikeAGirl campaign and was immediately inspired. In the ad, the girls wrote hurtful words on boxes and then crushed and destroyed the boxes. In one of my sessions with the girls, I had them write words such as “fat”, “ugly”, “racist”, and “dumb” on pieces of paper and then rip the paper up and throw the shreds away. I then had the girls write these words on a giant cardboard box which we took out into the hallway. The girls took turns running up and kicking the box until it completely fell apart. Seeing that they had the power to overcome and destroy barriers in their path, these girls were empowered to go after their dreams.
The female teachers at the school saw what I was doing with the girls in the different sessions and gladly participated in some of the activities. I was grateful for their help and willingness to join my cause because I knew that they could continue the work I started after I left. Even months after I have left this school that is on the other side of the world, teachers contact me every once in a while and tell me that the students still ask about me.
Experiencing this culture that is so different from my own opened my eyes to the fact that there are numerous opportunities to make a difference. Teaching these girls lit a fire in me to pursue not just a career in empowering women and girls, but to make it a lifestyle. Females possess such vital roles in life and I believe that all societies and cultures should recognize the part that women and girls play. I went into my teaching experience thinking that I was just going to demonstrate how the language of English is spoken and written. These girls, though, helped me find what I am passionate about and gave me the strength to pursue it.