Helping Students Survive Cliques
Little Susie comes into the classroom with her head down. She takes a seat in the back. Although her shoes are nice and clean—they are not the latest style Nikes. Her hair is combed neatly but she still seems to feel self-conscious about it. You also notice how she behaves when called upon to perform in front of other class members. They laugh at her silly antics but omit her from any interaction and when she tries to comment; they give her 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.
Don't Become A Victim
The Internet can be a wonderful tool for communication. It can also be a way of exposing young minds to dangerous situations. Beware of meeting someone in person you have just became acquainted with over the Internet. Some are predators that offer love, affection and a sense of belonging at the price of young lives. Don't be afraid of discussing with your parents or teachers any unwanted advances made either through Internet connections or in person as a means of handling the pressures of youth. Your life could in fact be in jeopardy.
Don't Submit 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.
Be Aware of Warning Signs
When you notice students that spend a great deal of time alone but not because of legitimate personal endeavors, be sure to monitor their behavior. If this person is always disruptive, defensive or manipulative there could be an undercurrent of hostility.
Listen to the conversations between the student and other members of the classroom. The problem may not be peer pressure but something deeper. Try to contact the parents/guardians of the student to ascertain the type of home environment the student is in. There may be an abusive parent or sibling that need medical attention.
Discuss with the principal or school counselor your observations to see if there could be justifications for your concerns. An individual trained in mental health could be an asset in avoiding a matter that can escalate into something critical. You could also discuss with other students their impression of the student and what has been see on Facebook or Twitter. Social Media can sometimes be a good barometer of how people feel.
Don't ignore inappropriate behavior!
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