As a student once said, “The perfect seat in class would be one where you are surrounded by your best friend, your crush, a smart person and a really cool funny kid.”
Each year teachers hope for a good mix of students, while students are hoping their best friend is in their class. With each class and with each year, classroom dynamics change. Offering your child a few tips for starting the year off right can make all the difference.
A new year is a chance for a fresh start, for those students who need it. Unfortunately, some years a class is made up of a group of students who just don’t mix well,throwing off the classroom dynamics. Often it is not something as blatant as bullying, but it can be a case of a child feeling like they don’t fit in or are being shunned and not included in peer activities.
Teach your child to recognize and have empathy for those who are being left out or teased. Remind them that at the very least they should not be part of the audience and, at the most, they should stand up for the person being picked on or include the person being ignored. As one child told me, “They said they were just teasing me but it still hurt.”
Author Sonali Kohli offers these tips for students when they witness cruel behavior:
- Learn these three words: “That’s not cool.” Children can be defenders for and advocates of one another. If the bully is a friend, talk to that person about how their words affect the other person.
- Don’t laugh. Even wordless affirmations of negative behavior can encourage a bully. Those types of behaviors could give the bully the idea that it’s funny. They’re getting a reward. Bullying isn’t funny, and a child doesn’t need to be an active bully to perpetuate the problem.
- And as students are frequently told, report bullying to an adult. Also remind kids that if bullying occurs online, many websites and apps have venues through which teens can report inappropriate content.
Psychology Today author, Elizabeth J. Meyer, Ph.D., recommends helping your child find a peer group that is supportive of who they are. “Peer groups play a significant role in the life of a child. If your child has fallen in with a group of toxic “friends,” finding a new activity or social circle can be very validating and liberating — especially if it is separate from the “drama” of their school friends.”
Hopefully, your child will start the year with a room full of polite, fun, eager to learn students, and have their best friend in their class. Most teachers will give themselves a few days to observe the classroom dynamics before assigning seats. If your child wants to be able to sit by their best friend, remind them to behave. As one student said, “Teacher, if I sit next to my best friend I’ll whisper to them but if you put my best friend on the other side of the classroom, I’ll have to shout at them.”