The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship blog tour is in Australia. Specifically at KeystoneCreations and the Sing to Learn blog of educator Nuala O’Hanlon. Because of the girl-friendship dynamics she sees at school everyday, Nuala has some pointed, in-the-trenches questions for me. Like this one…
Nuala: As a teacher, I see how mean and hurtful girls can be to each other at this age. How would you go about dealing with girls who are in the same class, can’t stand each other, and are mean to each other at every opportunity?
Annie: You haven’t said how old the girls are, but if they are at least 2nd grade, the first step would be to have a community circle with all the girls in the class… those who you see as “part of the problem” as well as those who are not contributing to the nastiness. The goal of this meeting is not to vent about past hurts. As facilitator, you must make sure that doesn’t happen. The goal is to engage girls in the process of finding solutions moving forward.
You might open the circle meeting by saying, “I’ve been noticing certain behaviors in our class that make me very sad. I see girls not letting other girls play or sit with them at lunch. I see girls pushing other girls away with their words and with certain expressions on their faces. I see girls talking in unfriendly ways about girls behind their backs. This is a problem for everyone in the class. Because I know you girls are very smart, I thought I’d ask for your ideas of how we can make our classroom a friendlier place.”
Be patient. Be calm. Exude confidence in the girls’ ability to be creative-problem solvers. Make sure you provide every girl a chance to share ideas for making things more peaceful. Take notes on a white board as the girls brainstorm. End the meeting with action steps to begin the next day.
If this doesn’t improve the situation, I’d suggest you get parents involved along with the school counselor.
Teachers, what are some of your classroom challenges with girl friendship issues?