St Michael’s gives students skills to belong

St Michael's Catholic Primary Lane Cove students.

Friendologists: St Michael’s Catholic Primary Lane Cove students (from left) Xavier Russell, Ella Carseldine, Declan Mackey, and Anwen O’Farrell.

A program with a unique view of friendship has given students in Years 2 to 6 at St Michael’s Catholic Primary Lane Cove the tools to belong wherever they go.

Friendology is an interactive six-week program designed to teach girls and boys ways to navigate friendships and have positive self-esteem.

Student Welfare and Wellbeing Coordinator Lisa Netting said the boys and girls attended separate sessions – named GirlPower and GoodGuys – in a relaxed space outside their classroom. They kept a journal of the things they discussed and activities that made each more self-aware. After positive feedback from parents and students (including Year 6 graduates who said the program helped them make new friends in high school) the program will this year be extended to include Year 1 students.

“Girl power is obviously empowering girls to speak up, stand up for themselves, be true to themselves, and be successful young women,” Mrs Netting said. “The boys’ program was about the boys becoming those good guys who aren’t going to be physical and react with violence or bravado, but who use words and are humble. Something we’ve seen the girls and boys talk a lot about is being true to themselves and who they are – not trying to be someone else.”

Anwen O’Farrell, 10, said the program helped her navigate conflicts within her group of friends. The program’s ‘friend-o-cycle’ refers to conflicts or arguments as ‘fires’ and gives strategies to help put out the flames.

“At the time I was doing Friendology there was a bit of a problem between my friends and it really helped me get over that,” she said. “I used the ‘friend-o-cycle’ which goes through four stages. Gradually you confront the problem, talk it out and you’re back to being true friends. It gave me a strategy and made me more confident.

“We learnt what a healthy and unhealthy friendship is. Basically an unhealthy friendship is when you feel uncomfortable in that situation and might not want to be friends anymore. If it’s a healthy friendship, you feel comfortable and you feel like you can have a good laugh.”

Something we’ve seen the girls and boys talk a lot about is being true to themselves.

– Lisa Netting

Ella Carseldine, 10, in Year 5, said one of her favourite Friendology activities was to interview her mother about friendship.  “It taught us to treat ourselves like gold and to be true to ourselves, so if we thought that someone was treating us rudely we wouldn’t say it was okay, we’d go up to them and say ‘you hurt my feelings and I don’t like it’ and then we’d talk it out and hopefully forgive and forget,” she said.

Steve Pryde was one of two male teachers who ran the boy’s sessions. He said it was useful for them to have male role models to talk through the GoodGuys concepts.

“We kept it as appropriate as we could for the playground,” he said.  “We talked about bravery with surfer Mick Fanning as an example – not only about how he dealt with a shark attach in the water but how he spoke of it afterwards.

“And we showed that it is okay to talk about your feelings. It’s generalising a bit, but boys don’t talk about things as much as girls do. So we really encouraged those discussions, and that  if people are putting you down there are ways to deal with it, and often time out is really good first so you don’t do or say things in the heat of the moment.

“I think for boys too the games they play at recess and lunch are ultra-competitive and as soon as the rules are bent there can be conflict, so it’s good to be able to deal with it.”

If it’s a healthy friendship, you feel comfortable.

– Anwen O’Farrell

Year 6 students Xavier Russell and Declan Mackey, both 11, became friends outside of school when their families lived in Singapore. Xavier said when he completed the program in Year 5 the boys in his grade already had strong friendships, but that the skills he learnt would be useful when he went to high school.

“I’ll still have my friends, but it is going to help me make some new ones and see if they are healthy friendships,” he said. “It helps in general if you’re down or feeling someone’s hurt you. You can always go to one of your better friends – you know that they are since Friendology helped you pick them out.”

Declan said the Friendology program had taught him conflict resolutions skills that had changed the way he would respond to situations. “I think it gave me more options,” he said.

“If you’d said something disrespectful to me in Year 4 or 5 I would have just walked away and wouldn’t look back at it. After Friendology you’d see I would do much more. It really changed the way we thought.”

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