I was sitting with my son’s best friend, Joe, and his sister and his mom in a restaurant in Illinois. And a text came from the school to say which classroom Joe is in.
Joe said, “Am I with Robbie?”
His mom called Robbie’s mom.
“No. You’re not with Robbie. But Robbie’s mom says you’re with Jacob. You like Jacob.”
“I really like Robbie though. We sat next to each other all last year.”
Joe’s sister piped up: “That’s okay. You can make new friends!”
I said, “Did you request for the kids to be together?”
But the school doesn’t allow that.
Which is pretty standard. Principals set up classrooms so that it’s easiest on the teacher. You can’t have all the trouble makers in one room, you can’t have all the top students in one room, and you can’t have all the kids with crazy parents in one room. So after you accommodate all that, there is no space to also accommodate who is whose best friend.
Which means that kids make friends and then have to start over again, when the classroom changes.
As a kid I remember going to the huge auditorium to see the class lists posted on the wall. And I remember being really sad when my best friend was not in my class. I remember thinking it’s so much work to make a new best friend, which you always have to do, because you need a best friend in your classroom each year.
But as an adult I see the systematic destruction of a kid’s sense of belonging. What is the benefit of reorganizing classrooms every year? This is not a model for how the real world works. In the real world, when you find people you like, you stick with them.
In the real world, you stay with a group of people you like for two or three years. In the real world, according to a study at Gallup, if you have two friends at work, it’s nearly impossible to hate your job. So if you want to teach kids about the real world, allow them to request that they stay in a classroom with their two best friends.
School teaches you that being with the people you like is not nearly as important as getting the right balance in the classroom. School teaches you that it is not reasonable for you to expect to be able to control who you spend your days with. But in fact, one of the most important aspects of navigating adult life is asserting control over which teams you work with. You should work with people you want to work with, and school should teach you how to figure out who you work well with.
It’s ironic that people worry so much that homeschoolers are not socialized properly. Because what kids really need is to make friends and do their work—whatever that is—with people they like working with.