‘Empower Our Girls’ book club

It started with a book giveaway on Twitter. Adam Welcome offered to give away multiple copies of his books to a few lucky schools. Unfortunately for everyone else who replied, I saw this message on my birthday and, yes, I shamelessly made that clear in my reply. As you may have guessed, the books were soon on their way to Hong Kong!

After receiving five copies of Empower Our Girls (co-authored by Adam Welcome and Lynmara Colón), I passed a couple of them to colleagues who I thought might be interested and then put the remaining copies in our school’s professional development library. This book was added to my long reading list and I had every intention of reading it… someday. Then I had a rethink.

Adam was generous enough to send free, signed books to schools and even pay for them to be sent across the world. I wanted Adam to know that they were gratefully received and that the effort was not wasted. Our staff book club was born.

I sent a message to my colleagues that outlined my plan for the book club and a brief explanation of this important book about gender equality and equal opportunities. Despite the insanely busy time of year, we had ten teachers in the club. In the first meeting, we discussed the expectations and, importantly, agreed on a pace that would be manageable and work for everyone. Book clubs should be enjoyed. I didn’t want it to become a chore or something that would add to our already full plates. Thankfully, Empower Our Girls is an easy read with short chapters that are organised in sections. Perfect for busy teachers! We decided to read one section per week and meet every Tuesday to discuss our thoughts and the “calls to action” at the end of every chapter. For a sneak peek, click here and ‘look inside’.

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I’ll be honest. Throughout the first few chapters, I was questioning it. Gender inequality is a massive issue in the world, I know, but does it really affect girls in Hong Kong and in America where the book was published? Is this message relevant to our girls and contexts? Thank goodness I was reading it with my female colleagues because I stand corrected! The women and girls in our lives do face biasses, stereotypes and preconceptions. Reading and discussing it with others added a lot of value for me. The book prompted many important discussions and offered many takeaways about how we can empower girls. It gave us lots to think and debate about. For example, consider the question below. The poll results and the replies tell very different stories!

The book says not to address your class as “guys”. Twitter says it’s kind of ok, but we can do better. What do you think? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Before we even got going properly, our club was affected by the unrest in Hong Kong and the resulting school closures. After a while, we decided not to let it impact our discussions. We started meeting online through Google Hangouts. Thankfully, we were back in school shortly after.

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This is not the only time that Google Hangouts played a key role in our club. For the final book club meeting (based on this book, at least), we had a video call with the author himself, Adam Welcome. The discussion allowed us to ask questions, push our thinking and chat with one of the nicest guys in education. The chat was inspiring and thought-provoking. It was very lovely of Adam to accept our invitation, especially considering it was quite late at night for him. We appreciated it very much. It added even more depth to our learning.

So, where do we go from here? Empower Our Girls prompted us to create a staff book club, but we don’t want it to end just because we have finished this particular book. It has been really beneficial. We plan to continue the club, open it up to other teachers and keep the conversations and learning going. If you have any book recommendations, please comment below. Click here for mine.

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