Mrs. Mitchell

Finding Support With Friends

At the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, Granville Elementary School Social Worker Deidra Mitchell set out on a mission to find a new way to support the needs of her students. She wanted students to be part of the process, so she surveyed students to better understand their needs and create a plan to meet them head on.

What emerged from those meetings with students has become known as Friendship Skills Groups. Students in each grade meet in groups with classmates to discuss qualities of friendship, how to make and keep friends, how to be a good friend, and how to resolve conflict.

“Friendship Skills Groups have helped our students become more comfortable starting and maintaining conversations, as well as using specific conflict resolution strategies,” said Mrs. Mitchell. “I’ve seen my students grow and improve their peer-to-peer communication skills because they’re getting opportunities to learn about, discuss, and practice specific social skills.”

Friendship Skills Groups are comprised of 5-10 students, each from the same class. Students sit down with Mrs. Mitchell once a week for a six-week period and discuss topics that are core to the concept of being kind and being a good friend to those around you, and how to handle situations where disagreements may happen. Students also participate in team building activities, like conversation starters or creating friendship puzzles. Mrs. Mitchell says getting students working together helps build stronger bonds.

“The idea of Friendship Skills Group is to encourage students to make and maintain friendships, but also ask our students to be self-reflective and ponder if they’re being a good friend themselves.”

A point of emphasis during the Friendship Skills Group meetings is the use of “I” statements. “I” statements can be a general communication strategy and helpful when it comes to conflict resolution as a way to share feelings in a respectful way.

“My goal for everything we do with our students in the Friendship Skills Groups is to be self-reflective. Our students understand that their actions can have an impact on others, and if they’re willing to share how something might impact them in a specific situation, it will make the entire group reconsider how to approach that moment.”

Mrs. Mitchell, who has been the GES social worker for eight years, hopes to expand the program next year to include more students.

“We’ve seen growth with every student who sits down and participates. It has truly helped break down barriers some students put up without realizing they are doing so. Bringing in more classes and more students will only help foster a healthy, cohesive school environment for everyone.”