- Education and Science
Helping Students Survive Cliques
Little Johnny comes into the classroom with his head down. He takes a seat in the back. Although his shoes are nice and clean—they are not the latest style Nikes. His hair is combed but not cut in the newest styles that the other boys his age are wearing. You notice that the other class members omit him from any interaction and when he tries to comment; they give him looks that could kill! This is exclusion.
Whether we liked it or not, at some point in our lives we all have dealt with Peer Pressure. It can be a lot harder when you’re an adolescent or teen, however. There are many reasons why young people may submit to Peer Pressure. Being accepted is always preferred to being considered unlikeable or unwilling to conform to the standards within a group. The reasons for the differences could be due to economic circumstances. Students may be labeled weird or problematic when in actuality they desire more than anything to be received.
This article will investigate ways in which teachers can assist their students in understanding Peer Pressure and realize that not being included in a Clique doesn’t destine them to a life of rejection.
Defining Peer Pressure
What exactly is Peer Pressure and why is everyone susceptible to it?
Have you ever watched wildebeests or zebras on National Geographic Wild? If so, this should give you a clue. It’s that natural instinct to congregate with your own kind and feel secure. It is the knowledge that there is safety in numbers and when you digress from the “herd” there is always the danger of succumbing to predators.
In the wild, predators can be identified by their distinctive characteristics: lions, hyenas, tigers or bears possess massive canine teeth for tearing into flesh. Even in the ocean, there are sharks and other sea creatures that have the capability of devouring others. Unfortunately, in our human arena there are also predators in the form of intimidators, pranksters or bullies that await the opportunity to cause mayhem. More often than not, they are only young impressionable minds craving attention.
The media evokes great influence on our youth in deciding how to dress, how to look and even how to interact with their peers. Individuality can sometimes become understated in lieu of adopting the latest trend. If your school has a required dress code or necessitate the wearing of uniforms then this can be less of an issue. Teachers nevertheless should keep an ever vigilant eye on behavior that can be identified as deviant.
Why Give in to Peer Pressure?
There are many reasons why young people should not submit to Peer Pressure.
One of the most important reasons is that it’s not in your best interest. We discussed earlier how safety in numbers is a good way to avoid being the victim of a predator. We also noted that the “herd” tends to surround itself with like kind. Socializing with individuals who think and act similar to the way you do is always preferred to trying to fit into a group whose actions may not compliment your behavior. Teachers should stress this fact.
There are a lot of groups either in the school or the community that foster good moral behavior without regard to how a person looks; the economic status or ethnic background. Boys & Girls Clubs of America is a great example of an organization that specializes in creating the right environment for our youth. Talk to your class about the advantages of being affiliated with such organizations.
There is a difference between Friendships and Cliques
It is normal even health to have friendships or involvement in special interest groups. How wonderful to know that you belong and fit in. You can develop relationship skills, feel close to others, and get the support you need when you are a part of a group. Friendship groups are normally created where people have common interests. This is why there are Writers, Athletic, Artists, Computer and even Math Clubs. If you notice that your students show particular skills—why not encourage them to become a part of one of these groups. Or if there isn’t one already; suggest the students create their own.
Cliques, on the other hand, are rigid groups that frequently have a strict code of involvement and behavior. Instead of being focused on like values and ideas, many cliques are apt to center on maintaining their standing and reputation. For example, a certain clique may attempt to show that people in their group are “more desirable” than those who are not connected with them. People in cliques sometimes use their influence to hurt others by either being exclusive, degrading or both.
Your students should steer clear of such groups!
Surviving Cliques or Negative Peer Pressure
There are some things teachers can do to assist their students in avoiding or becoming victims of cliques or negative peer pressure.
Ask your students to think about the things that are important to them and how they feel about themselves. Let them know that they are not just the child of Mr. or Ms Parent but they are a vital part of the school, community or religious group who has the right to live and enjoy life the same as others.
Next, discuss how they need to stay involved in activities that help them to feel good about who they are. If you have students who enjoying drawing—encourage them to do this during their “down time.” Discuss with their parents their artistic potential and supply information and websites that foster their interest.
Keep on the lookout for students who are withdrawing from any type of social interaction and tends to keep mainly to themselves. This can be a warning sign of imminent trouble. Get to know your students and try to get to know their parent(s). If something negative has happened or you notice a distinct change in their behavior—discuss this with the students involved, the parent(s) and the school counselor.
Inform your students that if they feel threaten or uncomfortable in any way; they need to inform an adult regarding the situation. Let your students know that they don’t have to feel compel to engage in activity that may cause them negative consequences. When your students know that they can have confidence in their positive actions then they will be less likely to fall prey of negativism.
Molding the lives of others is a big responsibility. Parents rely on teachers to train their offspring in an environment that is most conductive to learning. When students don’t have the added burden of feeling rejected because of their physical appearance, their religious beliefs or their choices in acceptable behavior, they will benefit greatly from their years of matriculation in school.
© 2014 Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS