Using Biography to Counsel Gifted Young Women

Article excerpt

Abstract

Gifted young women face a variety of important social and emotional issues throughout adolescence and passage into adulthood. This article presents a number of issues through four themes: gender role expectations, relationship-oriented problems achievement and underachievement concerns, and the need for resilience in women's lives. The authors propose guided reading of biographies as a counseling strategy through which middle and high school educators may assist gifted females in gaining helpful insights to deal with the problems they face. The article also provides available biographies of gifted females, as well as various ways secondary teachers and counselors might use such an approach to counsel gifted young women.

... thinking that I had been given a second chance in life, I threw myself into books. I read books about troubled women, Helen Keller and Anne Frank. I read about Eleanor Roosevelt.

What a difference it makes in your world to go into some other life. It's what I love most. I'm reading always to leave myself, always to leave myself behind. That's what reading is. You get to leave.

--Oprah Winfrey, qtd. in Johnson, 1997, Pp. 53, 60

Students' Stories

Bethany

I can't believe you're really going to follow through on this one. You must be out of your mind! How many girls in our senior class are seriously going to enjoy AP physics?" It was only the second day of fall semester, and already Bethany found herself needing patience with Jennifer. Bethany listened to her best friend carry on as they dug through their lockers in search of their textbooks for sixth period class. While Jennifer was pleased to be taking psychology, Bethany looked forward to a year of studying physics with Mrs. Harris, the science teacher with the most rigorous standards and the highest expectations for young women at Carver High School. Jennifer carried on, "I just don't get it. Why waste your time? The guys in that class will have just stepped off the bus from Geek City! You won't find any cute guys there."

Bethany smiled sheepishly, knowing that her best friend meant well. Jennifer's view of the world was quite different from hers, but she was still her best friend and had been since third grade. Growing up in the same neighborhood, Bethany transformed from neighborhood tomboy to the leading longdistance runner on the Carver High women's track team, while Jennifer had put aside her ballet slippers to become president of the pep club and captain of the cheerleading squad.

As they walked away from their lockers, Jennifer reminded Beth to meet her after class. Beth did enjoy accompanying Jennifer on their mall excursions. As she walked down the corridor to AP physics, she remembered the appointment she'd arranged to see her guidance counselor at 3:00. She had been excited to hear from her counselor that several engineering programs were offering scholarships to young women with her range of SAT scores, and she wanted to find more information about these programs. She realized her career plans were important, and she knew that she should see her counselor, but she was torn. Jennifer's comments about the guys in physics class were in the back of Beth's mind as she thought about their planned trip to the mall. She thought about how much fun the facial makeover at the cosmetics counter of her favorite department store would be. If she wanted to get a date, she would need to change her Image. She sighed to herself as she thought about how she would feel sitting home alone on a Satur day night; yet, she had worked so hard to achieve her high SAT scores, and the scholarships her counselor had described sounded wonderful. Should she worry about shopping, facial makeovers, and dating or her life after graduation and her dreams of becoming a successful engineer? She sighed again and wondered why her life had to be so complex.

Sasha

Sasha was happy to be home from school. …