An approach for teachers to empower girls to solve their own friendship issues
When girls fall out with each other at school it can be tough for the girls, but also for the teachers and parents who try to support them. Teachers report to us that they spend many hours a week trying to unpick the problems and issues that lead to relationship conflict between girls, but with only limited success. The problem is that the issues involved are very fluid and hard to express precisely. Girls in schools report to us that the things usually get worse when then the adults get involved in their friendship issues.
Girls on Board offers a different way of supporting girls and has been adopted in dozens of schools by hundreds of teachers helong thousands of girls across the UK.
Unless there is specific wrong-doing or bullying taking place, Girls on Board replaces the ‘justice tools’ approach usually adopted by teachers to investigate conflict. A Girls on Board session bring all the girls in a school year group together to explore and re-enforce the key principles:
- All girls fear having no friends.
- Adults can only help in very limited ways.
- A girl without a friendship group is a problem for everyone because whichever group she eventually joins will be changed in some way by her arrival.
Once girls begin to see and understand that they all feel this way, then rifts between them naturally start to heal and they start to bond with each other again. Using the Girls on Board approach, teachers help the girls build healing empathy and then let that empathy do its work.
Girls on Board sessions look at the dynamics of group sizes, different types of girls and behaviours, managing parent reactions and include role play.
A session may possibly address a friendship issue head on, but more usually a session will remain at the level of principle. The teacher’s role is to remain largely recessive and act as facilitator in holding up a mirror which reflects the girls’ behaviour and attitudes.
The Girls on Board approach will not prevent girls from falling out, but it will help them sort out their own friendship problems and minimise the distress they might experience. It provides a vital vocabulary to make communicate more open, honest and effective and creates a robust framework for parents so they feel reassured that issues are being dealt with effectively.
You have inspired me to take a fresh approach, and a step back from trying to unpick the minutiae of Snapchat messages and so on. Putting the onus on the girls themselves to consider their role in the dynamic of a falling-out absolutely resonates with me.