An approach for teachers to empower girls to solve their own friendship issues
Schools not using the Girls on Board approach may tackle girl friendship problems with their usual ‘justice tools’ – the same tools they would habitually use to tackle wrong-doing. They might use investigations, reports, judgments, sanctions, reprimands, restorative mediation and monitoring. These strategies are ineffective when applied to what can be recognised as and termed ‘normal Girls on Board turbulence’ and actually make the turbulence progressively worse over time, turning passing fluidity into chronic and systemic conflict.
Unless there is specific wrong-doing or bullying taking place, Girls on Board replaces these strategies and ‘justice tools’. Instead, sessions bring all the girls in a school year group together to explore and re-enforce the key principles:
- 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.
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 also 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.