Today we’re celebrating a leader who is making others better as a result of her presence and making that impact last in her absence.
Meet Ms. Adrianne Warlick
What is your role? And how do you currently work with girls?
I’m a high school English teacher at Girls Academic Leadership Academy; I teach English primarily but also AP Research to seniors. I’m also an advisor. Our school is grades 6–12 and unique in that the Advisory group is kind of like Homeroom; we meet them in 6th grade and matriculate throughout the years with them. I’ve had the same group of students for the most part since 6th grade, and they’re now in 9th grade. I really get to watch these students grow up.
Girls Academic Leadership Academy is a single gender school but some students identify as trans or binary. It’s a public school with around 50% of the student body on free or reduced lunch. It’s a racially and socioeconomically diverse school that I have the privilege of teaching in.
What social-emotional learning skill have you found yourself using a lot recently for yourself and for the girls?
I try to incorporate social-emotional learning not just in Advisory but also core classes. For example in 10th grade English class, the curriculum for the whole year is about culture. I’ve been supplementing curriculum with a lot of lessons around social-awareness, diversity, and other topics that are helpful to integrate into the English Language Arts curriculum.
I’m also teaching an elective to middle schoolers this year and it’s women’s studies. It’s interesting to teach it to such a young group. I want to set the message early on that women’s studies isn’t just studying successful women out there you haven’t met, but a study of ourselves, because we are part of this narrative.
For the first unit, I selected a lesson from the Power ColLABorative curriculum about self-awareness and development of voice.
What was your biggest takeaway from the Power ColLABorative training that impacted your work with girls?
The Power ColLAborative training has a grab and go quality which I really appreciate. The dissemination of information was very accessible and ready for me to implement in the classroom. Professional development is often strategy and theory, which is great, but the Power ColLABorative was full of hands-on strategy I could take directly into the classroom.
I liked that it was a very active training — as we were learning about the power of the curriculum, we were also doing the cucrriulum’s activities. By the time I went to implement a handful of them with my students, I had participated in some of those already.
I’m very interested in social-emotional wellness skill development, even prior to taking the Power ColLAborative training. I really felt like it gave me more tools for my toolbelt — more strategies and more activities I can use with my students. There are some routines in my classes that we have each day that I’ve always incorporated, especially now during COVID.
My Advisory class of four years starts the day off with a gratitude list: what are we grateful for, in terms of our family, school, or ourselves. We do that with intention. It’s one of those things that grounds us and we’ve always done that. In my classes we always do an emotional check-in at the beginning of every class. So this is where we put our hats on and we move forward, by checking in with ourselves first.
I think one of the most powerful things I got from the training was the community agreements activity. I’ve been familiar with community agreement activities and did them in the past, but I love the flow and structure of that process as outlined in the Power ColLAborative materials. I literally do it with every single class I have, ever. Any time a new group is coming together, we always establish those community agreements. We then reflect on them very quickly at the beginning of each lesson before we move forward. It sets the tone and also allows students to see they have a sense of agency and voice in the center of the classroom culture.
It definitely increases engagement by lowering their effective filter so they can lean into the space. Whatever the lesson is about, the community agreement allows them to access it to a greater degree for sure. And in addition to that, the English Language Arts curriculum we use — a lot of times curriculum centers people outside the students, like smart people you don’t know.
What I like about the Power ColLAborative curriculum is that it centers the students. We use it alongside traditional curriculum.
Students have responded really favorably to the 10th grade culture curriculum. They did the identity canvas and they’re going to dig more into the injustice side of things in the second semester, looking at dominant culture and what that looks like. That’s something I really appreciate about the curriculum — it’s not just social-emotional wellness on an individual level but it also allows space for public and political conversation. I feel like that’s lacking in most SEL curriculum — we’re looking at ourselves as individuals but also social beings and how our positionality shapes our experiences.
Who has helped you step into the power of your voice? What was it they did, said, or role modeled that equipped you to exercise your voice?
There have been lots of women in my life who make me feel comfortable like my mom and best friend, but also my interactions with my students. Seeing them grow and seeing how intelligent and informed they are just gives me a lot of hope. It also drives me to make their world a better place. I see what they need; I see what they’re capable of. Gen Z is much more solution-focused than my millennial generation. I don’t want that to entirely fall on their shoulders. I feel motivated to engage in my own level of social solutions as an educator and individual based on the fact that I feel so inspired by them.
What would you want other parents/teachers/program staff to know right now?
It’s most important now to strike a balance between being empathetic and understanding, but also holding structure and accountability to reinforce and hold structure in students’ lives. Kids thrive in structure so we want to provide that structure and sense of normalcy as much as we can. But we should also continue to be empathetic and understanding.
At the core of that comes constantly taking a barometer of when I’m feeling frustrated with a student or pushing back a little bit on a student’s behavior or work. I check in with myself: is this coming out of frustration or because I know this student can do better? What obstacles does this student have going on that I need to be mindful of while showing that I care enough to hold them to high standards?
It’s a balance for them and for myself. I’m pretty good at balance for myself: life marches on and my job gets done. Creating balance is the hardest but most important thing.
I love Girls Leadership and everything you’re doing. You’re fulfilling a niche within the girls’ empowerment space that needs to be addressed in terms of understanding that we’re not just girls but also all these other identities, and how can we find empowerment in all those identities.