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"Raise Your Hand If You Think You're Beautiful"

By Robin Sizemore on 04/13/2016 | General

"Raise your hand if you think you're beautiful."

Every hand remained down.  Some girls sat on their hands, some looked down.  After a few agonizing minutes ticked by, 14 beautiful girls were staring at me as if I was making them feel uncomfortable. This uncomfortable feeling made me excited, I knew change was about to begin.

It was hard at first to get the girls to talk; this neighborhood is not an environment where one shows vulnerability. Some of these girls’ hearts and mouths stayed closed; whether it was to make them feel safe, or protected, each girl was different.  

During our ten weeks, lessons about being grateful, dealing with emotions, and eating healthfully really helped loosen everyone up. Through laughter, games and conversation, we made progress, we became a TEAM.  We helped each other sort out drama, played the squeeze game, took lots of bathroom and water breaks and RAN.  Additionally, girls from two previous sessions asked to be a part of the team giving us two student coaches. They cheered for girls when they struggled, escorted bathroom and drink breakers, and gave advice about pacing.  Each week the girls continued to amaze me with their progress. One coach, after a lesson on gossip, asked if she could make fun of my sunglasses with the girls behind my back; she wanted to see if the gossip lesson just taught took hold. I'm happy to say my fashion sense remains unchallenged and the girls showed their strength against gossip.

To end the season, our 5k celebration was held on a beautiful fall day.  We ran laps - 15 times around the playground and parking lot, on a rocky asphalt surface paved with garbage, a dead bird, and a nail; we then sat down for a race talk.  I asked if anyone was scared and several hands went up. One by one, I heard the worries facing these 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.  "I don't think I can finish", "What if it's rainy?", "I'm afraid of crowds", and "People will be watching me".  The team and I took on these fears one by one, no fear being unresolved.  Student coaches helped out by sharing their excitement from previous race days; these elementary school heroes painted an imagination mural of cheering crowds, colored hairspray, and hair bows.  One girl remembered runners dressed like the band Kiss, and had us all laughing.  Fear was forced out of the way by anticipation and excitement.  I felt "girl power” was in full effect. 

At school on Monday after the race, the girls and I will talk about the experience.  I will pose a challenging question.  

"Raise your hand if you think you're beautiful."

I will see hands...big and small, brown and peach, manicured and chippy, bejeweled and tomboy-ish.  

Beautiful girls' hands will fill the air.

Robin Sizemore

Author

Robin Sizemore is a reading teacher and graphic novel lover who lives in Northwest Indiana with her husband, daughter, son, and two dog BFFs. She’s passionate about helping children find their strengths. Do her a favor and read the books “A Wrinkle in Time” and “Wonder” and anything John Green writes (including tweets). She has her own excuses for avoiding running, her best one being someone needs to dress as left shark at the race water stop​.  Tweet her @rsizereadwrite

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