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What Teachers Need to Know About Student Friendships: Carlin Flora
Education | May 14, 2013

What Teachers Need to Know About Student Friendships: Carlin Flora

"Most schools do not teach friendship skills," education speaker Carlin Flora told us in an interview. "We assume these are naturally acquired—and they are for kids who intuitively know how to approach other kids, listen to them, give and take, and propose interesting and fun activities." However, as she addresses in her talks, not all kids are able to develop these vital socializing skills on their own. And, like she points to in her book Friendfluence, close friendships play an important part in how well a child does in school. That's why teachers and administrators shouldn't take these skills for granted—and why early educators should devote a portion of their curriculum to helping children hone the ability to form and sustain solid friendships.

Flora says that healthy, mutual friendships affect a child's physical and mental health, and improve their ability to do well in school. Healthy friendships teach children how to debate, see different perspectives, be effective in storytelling, and become efficient at conflict resolution, she explains. Further, friendships help children develop a sense of humor and teaches them how to interact with and care for other people around them. "Children rise or fall to the level of their peers," she adds. For example, research has shown that the children of immigrants tend to take on the accents of their peers, which often improves their language performance. It's also been shown that children who befriend those who attain good grades often achieve higher grades themselves. "Having just one friend, for example, makes it much less likely a child will be bullied," Flora also told us. "And for those who are bullied, having at least one friend makes it much less likely that she will go on to develop depression as the result of the bullying."

Teachers have the power to help kids who are "temperamentally shy, aggressive, anxious, or on the autism spectrum," effectively connect with other kids, Flora says. "For educators of older children, a key message I would convey is that peer pressure should not have an automatically negative connotation," she advises. "Teens encourage good behavior in their friends as much if not more than they encourage deviant behaviors." When approaching the subject of friendship-building in the classroom, Flora suggests discussing "gossip, socializing and technology, rivals, gender differences, and how anti-bullying programs can be rounded out and enhanced with 'pro-friend' lessons." Beyond that, educators and administrators can keep parents in the loop about how their child is fitting in at school. That way, no child falls through the cracks. A key component to the education system is imparting the "knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in life," Flora says. And one of those skills is learning to make friends. In her talks, Flora unpacks this research in full detail. She shows educators how to make the most of each child's potential—and how to help them foster the friendships that will enable them to do so.
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