Bernadette was kind of a surprise pick for me -- she's an absolute sweetheart, and kind of in the high middle of her class. I didn't really plan on bringing her until the very end, when I saw how deferring she was to the boys in her class. She seemed like the perfect candidate for Camp GLOW -- smart, nice, and in need of a little girl power education. And that's exactly what she got.
Flora (wearing an Obama girl t-shirt in this picture) is the overall top student in her 6M1 class for 2010-2011. The girl is smart, and towards the end of the year she finally started gaining some confidence in my class... in the beginning, she'd cover her mouth every time she answered a question, and by the end I'd told her to stand up/speak up/put her hands down so many times that she did it automatically! Yaaaay! That's just posture, though, and I wanted her to get the full benefit of a week of health, education, financial planning, and women's rights sessions. She was in my Red team, so I got to spend the whole week hanging out with her and enjoying her enthusiasm. She asked me if she could come back next year.
Elisabeth is not shy. She's already a burgeoning feminist (in a questionnaire I gave my girls' club, she wrote, "It is NOT true that men are more powerful than women, because a woman can do anything a man can do and probably worked harder than he did anyway." She's the second girl in her class (after Flora), is always the first to raise her hand in girls' club, and is rarely too shy to share her opinions. She also stole my notebook one day, just to write "I love you" (in English) on its cover. I think I kind of love her, too.
Estelle was the girl I took to Natitingou with me for the spelling bee: an incredibly hard worker, smart student, and sometimes painfully shy girl. It takes a lot of work to have a conversation with her, and in a large group of people, it's tough for her to talk. I can sort of relate to that... so my biggest hope for this week was that she would come out of her shell, make some friends, and just let herself be silly. It took a few days, but by the end of Camp GLOW she was teasing other girls, dancing enthusiastically, and even laughing at my mediocre Beninese dance moves. I'd call that a success.
Pauline is the oldest girl I brought, and the only one from 5eme. I found out after inviting her that she's also the little sister of one of my fellow English profs, so that's an accidental positive. She's a good participant in class and gets good grades, but often isn't very outspoken otherwise... see a pattern with the girls? Beninese culture dictates that when a kid given an honor by a grande (me), he/she doesn't usually act excited or happy. They should thank you, curtsy, and walk away. Pauline tried to do that when I gave her her invite, and even though her eyes were dancing, she kept her face calm. When she turned away, though, I saw her cheek round out and her mouth turn up -- she was grinning like mad at her friends across the schoolyard.
Odette – Odette’s the littlest of the girls I took. For most of the year, she was really quiet in class, volunteering to answer a question here or there, always getting good grades, but never really seeking any sort of attention. At the end of the first semester, while doing grades, I suddenly realized that not only was she the top girl in my English class, but that she was the top student overall in 6M2. Amazing – little girl’s kicking the boys’ butts. J She’s got a big, gorgeous smile and a great giggle, and I couldn’t wait to see her soak up all of the important info we were going to throw at her.