A couple of quick questions:
- Other than physical injury, what’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you at school?
- If you’re a parent, what is/was the one thing, above all else, you hope/d would not happen to your child?
If you’re like myself and a lot of other people, you will have answered: To not have friends.
I don’t think there is anything that puts you as much ‘at risk’ than being friendless at school. It’s an awful thing that has been proven to affect you emotionally, psychologically, and academically. Simply put, it is horrendous in all ways.
If you have any experience in education, you’ll know that there isn’t a single school building where these lonely individuals don’t walk the corridors. Maybe they’re causing a disruption with anti-social behaviours, or they might even be shrinking away in proverbial and literal corners. Regardless of how their needs are being presented, you will notice them if you look.
This year, as a part-time Special Education Resource Teacher who worked with many students on this spectrum, I realized it wasn’t enough to hope and pray that these children would just figure it out on their own. I noticed that we just don’t do enough to help our children who have yet to crack the friend-making code.
So I started something called The Social Club, a social skills group which met once a week not only to practice cultural norms most of us take for granted and exhibit implicitly, but also to, quite simply, make some friends.
I was inspired to start this group after reading about Dan Buettner’s Blue Zone research into healthy societies. In Okinawa, an island south of the Japanese mainland, residents are renowned for regularly living to be centenarians with atypically great health and happiness. Okinawans follow a cultural code whereby, upon birth, you are automatically part of a mogwhai, a small group that become your friends for life. If you experience a windfall, the spoils go to the group; if you have hardship, your mogwhai has your back.
This is, in some cases diametrically opposite to our ways in the West. Which is why I started The Social Club.
The first rule of social club is WE TAKE CARE OF ONE ANOTHER.
The second rule of social club is WE TAKE CARE OF ONE ANOTHER.
The third rule of social club is WE TAKE CARE OF ONE ANOTHER.
My motley crew of Social Club members can’t wait to meet every week. If anything gets in the way of our usual get-together, I’ll hear about it for days. Our group members are children who’ve had a difficult time in the melee that is social life in school. All of them need a helping hand, some scaffolding with social situations. We’ve all needed some help, adult-mediated practice, and support with numerous things in our lives. Why not with making friends as well?
Read about How I Helped Kids Make Friends here.