Outside of the second grade classrooms, the walls are lined with black and white photos and short essays written by students. Each one has a different title—My Hands, My Arms, My Neck, My Hair, My Brain—and explains what second grade girls believe is the best part of themselves. Inspired by the book, The Best Part of Me by Wendy Ewald, which features a similar style, students celebrated the different ways they were unique by writing about their favorite attribute and sharing it with the class.
I love my heart.
I can feel it beat.
I live with it.
It lives with me.
It beats, it beats, it beats with me.
My heart is my favorite part.*
Throughout the Lower School curriculum, teachers intentionally create environments and concrete activities like the Best Part of Me project to promote competence and confidence. These tangible experiences create space for girls to feel pride in themselves and their friends as they express their ideas, opinions, and questions about the world. A critical component of this confidence-building approach is communication. By sharing their work and perspectives with their classmates and teachers, students build community and meaningful connections with one another.
“An amazing quality this class has is the ability to complement and support each other without it diminishing their own worth,” shared Katie Jordanoff, Grade 2 Teacher. “They really let each other shine because they know they are special too. That confidence in themselves helps them feel comfortable including anyone in their learning and play.”
Second grade students have also strengthened their self-esteem by learning about a growth mindset. A term coined by renowned psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck, a growth mindset is the belief that most abilities can be developed through practice, hard work, and dedication. Throughout the school year, students have learned that with this optimistic outlook they can boost their brainpower and do hard things together. They read the books Ish and The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds to illustrate the idea that failures are not setbacks, but learning opportunities to grow from. After reading the stories together, the class set goals for the year and made “yet” signs that signified what they can’t do yet but hope to do in the future.
“All of our students have a unique spirit. As teachers, we focus on listening to them from a space of unconditional acceptance for who they are and who they are becoming before our eyes,” shared Harry Frazee, Grade 2 Teacher. “It is pure joy to see our girls have breakthroughs in their learning. Making mistakes is an integral part of their growth.”
These intentional lessons about resilience, perseverance, and confidence in the second grade are part of a larger framework that is repeated over and over again throughout the Lower School. During team meetings, classroom lessons, assemblies, performances, and more, students articulate their goals and lean on their teachers and one another to make them a reality. As a result, Ellis girls gain a sense of pride and confidence in themselves, laying the foundation for a future filled with unlimited possibilities.
*Best Part of Me essay by Maya Winter, Class of 2031. The poem has been edited for spelling.