Monday, September 9, 2019

Helping my Students Set #FriendshipGoals

It’s that busy back to school time! As I’ve shown up for many first days at various schools over the past two weeks, the sights and sounds are familiar. Students rush through the halls decked out in smiles, new sneakers, stiff new backpacks and that perfect first day of school outfit. Squeals and excited chatter fill the air as friends and classmates reconnect after a summer apart.

When I set goals with my students during our initial sessions, almost every student included making friends as a goal for the new year—whether in elementary school, junior high, or high school.

When asked to name their friends, most of my students will name peers in their classes, or the students they sit with at lunch. As they get older, many students start to realize that their concept of a friend may not be complete. Sometimes they discover that what they’ve perceived as friendship may in fact be more superficial and less authentic than a true friend relationship. Friends frequently text or video chat. Friends hang out at each others’ houses on the weekends and after school. Friends get together over the summer. Friends share secrets (and keep those secrets!). Friends encourage each other to join the same clubs or play the same sports. Friends coordinate outfits and hairstyles. Are our students with hearing loss included in these ways?

My plan is to start by helping my students identify the characteristics and values that they would like in a friend. Having a better understanding of their own interests and strengths whether that is a sport, art, music, or hobby will help to identify clubs or activities that may be of interest at school. Extracurricular activities often offer more opportunities for socializing than class time. Self-confidence is another key piece to making friends. I want my students to fully accept all parts of themselves and have the confidence to approach potential friends, or to further their relationships with current acquaintances. I also plan to tune in when I’m observing in classes so I can better understand how to support my students’ connections with their peers. My hope is that my students can be authentically part of that chatter and excitement that comes with each transition back to school.

Maybe some kids come to school because they’re super excited about ionic bonding and algebra but for most, the motivation is social. It’s universal—everyone wants to feel included. As teachers of the deaf, how else can we support our students in forming genuine friendships?