Reflecting on the Social

Almost five years ago Glennon Doyle wrote a post that has stuck with me all this time. Lots of her writing hits me hard and changes me, but this post haunted me a bit. I couldn’t figure out how to do what I wanted with what I learned from it.

Every Friday afternoon Chase’s teacher asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student whom they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.

And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, Chase’s teacher takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her and studies them. She looks for patterns.

I read this and thought it was unbelievably brilliant. Simple, easy to do as a teacher, and so powerful. The problem, for me, is that my classroom has flexible seating so asking kids whom they’d like to sit with would seem odd to them. So I’ve struggled with this for five years. (That sounds absurd now that I’m putting it in black and white. Sigh.)

This year I’m trying something. Finally. I’ve created a set of prompts to help my kiddos to reflect on their relationships with their classmates. The prompts are:

  • In the past two weeks I have been glad to sit beside _______________ at lunch because…
  • In the past two weeks I have had fun playing at recess with ____________ because…
  • In the past two weeks ____________ has helped me learn in class by…
  • In the past two weeks I have had trouble doing my best when I work with _____________ because…
  • In the next two weeks I hope I get to work or play with _________________ because…

I don’t know that we will do this every two weeks throughout the year. I think that would be ideal for me, but we’ll see how it goes. They did it for the first time last week and I am learning a lot about their relationships and interactions. Their ‘because’ parts are pretty slim at the moment, but that doesn’t surprise me at the start of third grade. That’ll grow.

I don’t know if these prompts will really get at what I’m trying to learn from them. If needed, I’ll revise them as the year goes on. For the moment, I’m happy that I’m finally trying to get at what Glennon wrote about five years ago:

Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down- right away- who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.

That’s what I’m looking for. I don’t want to miss these social development growths or snags any more than I would want to miss the academic ones.

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