Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Be My Friend

In the mentoring program that I run, my students were instructed to come up with a "commercial" telling other students why they would want to be their friend. The lesson of the day was about Prejudice and Self-esteem. We first discussed prejudice and I played a game that involved the students participating in a spelling bee. One group got very easy words and another group was given difficult words. I told them that I gave the one group easy words because they had blue post it notes and I like blue so they get easy words. "RACIST!" they shouted out after the 4th round. I confessed that since they had yellow post it notes and I don't really like yellow, they were given more difficult words.

"NOT FAIR!" "RACIST! You are judging us on our post it note color!" They got it. 

A few of the high school students stated that they didn't feel bothered by the difficult words because they had faith that they would know how to spell the words. The middle school students didn't feel the same. More on that later. Back to the commercials. Students were to present their commercials in front of the group. I thought it was only fair that I also participate in this exercise and I wanted to share my commercial with you!

Be my friend! I'll always return your emails/texts/phone calls!

Be my friend! I love cookies and cake!

Be my friend! After we eat cake and let it digest, we can go to the gym and race each other on the treadmill.

Be my friend! I'll show you pictures of my cat even if you don't want to see them.

Be my friend! We can go shopping together and I'll be honest if those jeans make your butt look big-and you can tell me the same!

Be my friend! I'll share my nail polish with you and we can look up fun designs on Pinterest and attempt to copy them.


I wrote this in about 3 minutes while most of my students had a hard time grasping this concept and coming up with something to say. A few just said two or three things but I think that was a direct reflection of not using time wisely. It made me realize how much different we are as adults. How we are so confident in who we are, how we tend not to question ourselves as much or worry about what others think. 

One student, an 8th grade male, had a very difficult day. He is very short, wears glasses and is quite quirky, to say the least. His comments always seem to garner confused looks from his peers but for the most part, he has very high self least outwardly. He was the one who claimed racism when his post it note group received difficult words to spell (he spelled his correctly). When students had to fill out a worksheet on their likes and dislikes, his demeanor changed. Usually very upbeat and outgoing, he started to look disconnected. When it became time to go around the room and share the answers on the worksheet, he fled to a corner, put his hood on and stood there. I recommended seeking someone out to share his answers with but his response was that no one would want to be his partner. I reminded him that he was isolating himself in the corner and he would find this easier if he walked around and approached someone.

When I gave the instructions on the commercial, he seemed downright miserable. He sat in his desk with a blank look on his face. The teacher who helps to advise the group walked over to him with a piece of paper. He looked at it but his expression didn't change. I wandered back to where he sat and asked if he wrote anything down. "Ms. Smith did it for me." Recognizing that this was challenging for him, I praised the teacher and said how great it was that she saw so many wonderful qualities in him. He seemed unaffected by my praise. He and his high school mentor were the last to present their commercial. He carried the piece of paper up to the front of class. He started speaking (very matter-of-factly, serious look on his face, eyes looking at no one in particular). I don't know if he read from the paper or came up with his own reasons but the class erupted in applause when he was done. He remained tight lipped and expression free. 

Next week, we discuss bullying and his reaction to this lesson has inspired me to create a new activity for the group. These types of students need to understand that being different is okay and that even if they don't have friends now, in middle school or even high school, it won't be like that forever. His differences will set him apart and in the end, he will go through life embracing his personality.

There are times when I think being an adult is hard. But when I see the challenging life events middle and high school students go through on a daily (hourly even) basis, I count my blessings that I made it out alive and continue to thrive as an adult.

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