The Nature of Friendship


“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything.”

Muhammad Ali

I hate to disagree with the champ. But I do. While I agree that friendship is not taught in school like the other subjects, I think school is exactly the place where most kids learn about friendship. Friendship is one of the hidden curriculums that all students navigate as they pass through school from year to year. Without a doubt, middle school is a challenging time and environment for kids to learn friendship skills. Adolescents  struggle with their desire for autonomy and their need to be part of a group.

While the topics of school violence and bullying get the majority of the headlines, many of the office discipline referrals that come in each day are somehow related to friendship issues. These issues can be so covert and so subtle, but they often have big impacts on the students involved. Sometimes these behaviors are referred to as Relational Aggression. Relational aggression can take the form of pitting one friend against another, or in presenting the false dichotomy where  “If you’re friends with me you can’t be friends with that other person.” Excluding others from activities, spreading rumors and gossiping, or withdrawing attention and friendship are some of the other ways that this behavior can manifest itself.  The addition of multiple social media platforms available to students has not made things any easier. While social media helps kids connect with their friends, author Danah Boyd points out It’s Complicated.

Although we address many of these topics in our classrooms and in our Advisory program, I believe that all students will benefit from some additional direct instruction. To accomplish this, educators from Safe Futures will be here at Pawcatuck Middle School next week to present a program on Friendships to our 7th-grade and 8th-grade students. These sessions are designed to help students think about friendships, including what they are looking for in a friend, and why it is important for them to know what they can bring to a friendship. The lessons will also explore how friendships change and evolve over time. These lessons will also incorporate some of the online issues that students face such as: what does it mean to be loyal to someone? What do you do when someone posts something online that embarrasses you? What do you do when someone starts a rumor about you? The sessions will assist students to develop problem-solving skills and how to be an ally. 

“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

– Zig Ziglar