5 Simple Ways to Help Students Deal with Cliques
Teachers have so many things we need to monitor. We have to consider classroom management, effective teaching styles, grading student work, IEPs, and so much more than that.
In the midst of all of this craziness, we also need to be conscious of the fact that our students have emotions that need to be nurtured in addition to developing their intellect.
One of the biggest things that affects the emotions of our students are their peers. Peers have always played an important role in the emotional health of students, but they have become even more influential in the digital age.
It is natural for students to develop close groups of friends. While these friend groups are normal and healthy, they can seriously affect students when they become “exclusive”.
These exclusive friend groups are commonly known as cliques, and they can really damage a student’s emotional and social state.
Figuring out friendships and social circles is a very tricky thing for anyone, especially our students. They can feel lonely and isolated at times, and these feelings can and do affect how our students learn.
Cliques are usually in a negative light, so how does a clique differ from a good friend group?
Cliques VS. Friend Groups
- do not socialize outside of the group
- have some form of peer pressure (how to dress, what to listen to/watch, etc.)
- create limits the social circle of a student
- are good friends, but do socialize out of group
- celebrates the uniqueness in the group
- opens up the social circle of a student to different styles/preferences
Trying to be friends with someone in a clique is nearly impossible, and that can be hurtful for our students. Not only that, but those within a clique have very little exposure to anyone that is somewhat different than them.
Alexandra Robbins, the author of Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth, wrote that kids who can move freely between groups will be more prepared for success as adults. This is important to consider.
When it comes to cliques, we need to think about how it affects the students who don’t belong to them as well as the students that do belong in them.
Our desire is for our students to leave our classroom at the end of the year more prepared for the world both academically and socially. Teachers are well-trained on how to teach academics, but how can we prepare students socially?
Tips To Avoid Cliques In The Classroom
Assigned Seating in the Cafeteria
If possible, assign seating in the cafeteria just once a month. It’s enough to shake things up and show your students they can be friends with more than those they speak to every day.
Individual Chairs in the Cafeteria
Setting out chairs in the cafeteria allows different sized groups to sit together. Just like assigned seating, this should shake things up just enough for them to consider people they don’t already know as potential friends.
Talk to Your Students
Reach out to your students. Ask them how they are doing and what you as their teacher can do better to make your school a more welcoming place.
I read about a teacher who wrote a letter to his class about how student bullying and cliques hurt him. He asked his students to respond to him in writing. Students responded to him honestly, which opened up a wonderful conversation that led to a more welcoming classroom.
Teach Your Students to Be More Inclusive
We cannot assume that our students are going to learn how to be inclusive on their own. Students need us to teach them how to interact positively and appropriately. Teachers need to take time out of the busy school day to teach social skills that are needed by students.
Common Sense Education has developed a wonderful site for social-emotional learning. They have lessons linked by topic on their website. If you need a specific lesson, try their database.
Encourage Your Students to Try Different Things
When students are involved in a variety of activities, they begin to see themselves in different ways. If Jenny is involved in soccer, choir, and math club, she doesn’t just see herself as a jock, a choir geek, or a math nerd. She can begin to see herself as Jenny. Encourage your students to think of themselves as people with varied interests and skills.
Even if they can’t be involved in many activities, talk about how cool it is to see different facets of one person in the classroom. Students still have different interests even if they prefer (or aren’t allowed) to be in multiple clubs or sports. In addition to playing soccer, Pedro might love to read and take care of animals – and that is awesome!
Cliques can be detrimental to a students social growth, and it is up to us to ensure that they learn how to deal with exclusivity and become a more welcoming group of friends. What are your tips for dealing with student cliques? I’d love to hear them. Comment below!