Hewitt News

Girls Already Have Their Voices. But Do We Listen to Them?
Tara Christie Kinsey, Head of School and Sarah Odell, Director of Faculty Practice and Research

This piece was co-authored by Sarah Odell, Ph.D., Director of Faculty Practice and Research; Terell Cooper-Edwards, Head of Lower School; Paula Cuello, Ph.D., Head of Middle School; Elizabeth Stevens, Head of Upper School and Assistant Head of School; and Tara Christie Kinsey, Ph.D., Head of School

This summer, The Hewitt School was prominently featured in the opening keynote of the annual International Coalition of Girls’ Schools (ICGS) Conference, where over 600 girls’ school educators, scholars, and thought leaders from around the world gathered to learn best practices for educating girls today. In her keynote address, facilitated by Hewitt’s own Director of Research and Faculty Practice Dr. Sarah Odell, feminist scholar and New York University Professor Dr. Carol Gilligan challenged the audience, “We don’t need to help girls find their voices. Girls already have their voices. The question is are we going to listen to them?

At Hewitt, we unequivocally and enthusiastically answer: yes. Here are just two ways:

  1. Through the Hewitt Action Research Collaborative (HARC), we give upper schoolers graduate level training in the social sciences to ensure that girls’ voices drive continuous improvement of the student experience. For example, after analyzing student data from Hewitt’s YouthTruth survey, HARC students were curious to know more about how their peers defined and measured achievement, and how achievement impacted their experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. This led them to investigate the following research question: How do we define success at Hewitt? After HARC students presented their findings to senior administrators and all faculty, School leadership was inspired to develop a strategic priority for the 2023-2024 school year to ensure that all students feel seen, challenged, and supported at Hewitt. The fact that girls’ voices shape and inform our institutional priorities is evidence that at Hewitt, we listen carefully to girls and encourage them to speak up to make positive and much-needed changes in their communities.
  2. Through our partnerships with leading researchers, we take special care to listen to the voices of girls of color at Hewitt. Research shows that Black girls in the U.S. consistently experience their schools’ disciplinary practices as unfair. When we noticed this national trend reflected in our own student data, we partnered with Dr. Lauren Bailes (University of Delaware) and Dr. Terri Watson (City University of New York) to learn from our students of color about their experiences at Hewitt. Dr. Bailes then shared qualitative and quantitative findings with Hewitt faculty and staff to help them develop equitable classroom practices and ensure that students of color feel supported, successful, and loved within a predominantly white institution (PWI).

Hewitt has established itself as a local and national leader in girls’ education — and a destination employer for some of the best educators in the country — because of our unique commitment to amplifying girls’ voices. At Hewitt, educators know how to honor a young girl’s emotional honesty and preserve that honest voice through middle school, when the world starts to reward girls for using their voices to please instead of challenge others. In upper school, Hewitt educators tune in to young women’s authentic voices and design learning experiences that inspire them to become the game changers and ethical leaders our world needs. At Hewitt, we teach girls and young women to resist the “bad bargain” of choosing between having a voice and having relationships. At Hewitt, we listen to girls’ voices and we teach them that they can have voice and relationships and still be cared for and successful.

We are proud to work with Hewitt students, Dr. Gilligan, our incredible faculty and staff, and all Hewitt families to create a more just future for girls and young women here and everywhere.

Five students stand at a podium in front of a slide that says %22Share Out%22

Members of the Hewitt Action Research Collaborative lead an interactive faculty meeting inspired by their research findings

Dr. Lauren Bailes speaks at a podium. She is wearing a black dress and standing in front of a slide projection.

Research partner Dr. Lauren Bailes speaks to Hewitt faculty and staff about developing equitable classroom practices to ensure students of color feel supported, successful, and loved

Dr. Terri Watson is in the background wearing jeans and a black top. To her right is a teacher and her left a student.

Research partner Dr. Terri Watson works with members of the Hewitt Action Research Collaborative