Let them keep their relationships

This is a powerful talk. It turns many of the dominant educational practices and beliefs upside-down. It also is a bit of a slap in the face for some of the current practices in many schools. I will pick one to pull apart – mixing classes up every year.

I work in the international school context. Our students are perpetually making friendships and then losing friends when people leave to go to another country. They are perpetually saying good-bye to their relatives, whom they see only during some holidays. They are isolated from their own cultures and often possess few or no relationships with local people other than those who are subservient to them.

These children crave the stability of solid friendships and relationships. That stability comes from their classmates and the bonds that evolve from spending each day together. Then… here comes the weird bit… we mix them all up again the following year. They have to start all over again, from scratch, from zero…for some reason we seem to think that pulling the rug out from beneath their feet is the right thing to do. Young children’s strongest friendships are nearly always with kids in the same class. Invariably, the friendships weaken or all apart completely when they are put in separate classes.

Some kids can handle this. But, should they have to?

Some kids can’t handle it. And, no, its not going to toughen them up and make them more resilient. It’s g0ing to make them lonely.

This is pretty demoralizing for teachers too. We spend a whole year developing a class as a community of learners. We nurture relationships and cultures. And then we pull it all apart. And the process of pulling them apart and putting new classes together is not an easy one – it is time-consuming, emotionally exhausting and fraught with complexity on many levels.

I propose that we limit this practice and seek out opportunities to provide stability for our students. We keep classes relatively unchanged if it feels like the right thing to do. If there is something wrong with the dynamics of a class, we take steps to remedy it. If not, we leave them alone, let them have their friendships. They need them.



  1. kellijelli

    Agreed. My class is currently a beautiful team. They have their moments of disagreement – especially in the playground and so on – but, so do all families. They are respectful of each other’s ideas and thoughts. We have all worked hard to build this relationship and they thrive on it.

  2. Pingback: Let them keep their relationships | PYP Bloggin...
  3. Rebecca

    I agree in many ways but what about those children who don’t click with their classmates or who have strong friendships with children in other classes? What about the challenge for new students joining a class of existing friendships, a class of children who have been together for a number of years? Always tricky. At our school we ask children to choose friends they would like to be with and then work collaboratively with the other class teachers when creating the next years’ class, to ensure the children have at least one of their friendships choices in the same class for the following year.

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