Too young for makeup?

I recently spent 11 weeks teaching history classes to high school students in a rural community in Michigan. During this time I have had the opportunity to get to know dozens of students. I have observed many things about the teenagers (especially the young ladies) in my classes related to their self esteem and perception of beauty.

On my very first day of student teaching I handed out notecards with random questions for students to answer so that I could get to know them a little bit. One girl got the question, “What is your greatest talent?” She answered, “I am really good at hair and makeup. I have to be talented at those things so I can actually look good.” I thought to myself how sad it was that a 15 year old girl feels like she would look bad if she didn’t spend hours perfecting her hairstyle and makeup techniques.

In another class, I had students draw what their tomb would look like if they were to be buried as an Egyptian pharaoh. Another female student drew a makeup table in her tomb, covered with every beauty product imaginable. She labeled it: “I need all of my makeup in the afterlife so that I don’t scare the other mummies.” I had the same though as in the first situation. Why do these young girls think they are so ugly without a plethora of cosmetics?

After reading these negative things my students thought about themselves, I wanted to help them improve their self perceptions, even if just a tiny bit. I made sure to make positive comments on assignments as much as possible. I gave out fun stickers to students who scored well on tests and quizzes. I wanted to help students, especially those girls, to feel good about themselves. An easy, unobtrusive way to do this was to praise their academic talents.

Building positive relationships with my students was probably the best thing I did during student teaching. I feel that these interactions made my classroom a safe, comfortable environment where students could feel good about themselves for at least an hour of their day. I truly hope that those girls realize someday that they are smart and beautiful without worrying so much about their appearance.

-Hillary Hanel
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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