How Allies came to be
In Kindergarten and 1st grade, I would often watch my sweet and cautious daughter wandering the school playground by herself, waiting for someone to approach her and ask her to play. The first month of each school year was tough. In time, her personality would win over others in the classroom and the friendships would transition to the playground. The friends she made she bonded with and was loyal to.
Navigating the playground social scene
In second grade, she became friends with a bright and vivacious girl. It felt so wonderful to see her laughing and playing with someone right from the start of the year. She became happy and confident. Near the end of the school year, the friend suddenly and inexplicably stopped playing with her. She and I were both devastated and confused. Summer came; a welcome break from the pain of lunch and recess.
In third grade, things changed. It started with the class list. My daughter was in with her 2nd grade friend with the unexpectedly cold shoulder and a room full of others girls she had not yet formed friendships with.
My daughter would come home from school crying nearly every day. She felt lonely and terribly sad yet struggled to describe what was happening at school. I desperately wanted to help her but did not know how.
We were not alone
I asked other parents if their kids were facing similar problems. Many were. A friend and leader in our community recommended the book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman which opened my eyes to the world of relational aggression and bullying. I invited other parents I had spoken to about these troubles to form a book group where we could gather and discuss how to help our kids.
Wore out my library card
As I learned more through a long list of helpful books, my relationship with my daughter began to slowly change. I learned how to listen without lecturing and giving advice. We learned the vocabulary of relational aggression which gave her the words to describe her experience. As our trust and understanding grew, our relationship deepened.
I continued meeting with the book group but I felt there was more that could be done to help change the social climate at our school. I had looked at many different programs and curricula but nothing really resonated with me.
The ah-ha! moment
Finally I found this video on The Teaching Channel that showed how one counselor at a middle school in California had tackled this problem. She formed a group of students that performed skits about bullying for the school and lead discussions about how to respond to conflict and bullying. I knew this was the right fit for me and our school. Plus there is plenty of research to support the effectiveness of role play in teaching positive social skills.
Allies started at my home & took off at school
The book group parents were excited for their kids join Allies. We met at my house 3 times during the summer. When school started, our school principal allowed me to continue the group during the students’ lunch and recess.
We met bi-monthly throughout the school year, developing skits based on their experiences and practicing using an assertive body stance, voice, and words to make the situation better rather than worse. Students played the roles of target, bystander, and bully increasing their empathy and compassion for others.
By Spring, we were ready to share our skits with the school. The response was incredibly positive. As word got around, more parents and teachers asked about Allies.
We are currently in our fourth year meeting weekly for 10 weeks per group.