In the eighth grade, a new program called FRIENDS was introduced in advisory in order to promote tolerance, empathy, and resilience amongst students. The name of the course is an acronym that represents the seven things that the students will be learning about throughout the year. F is for “Feelings”; R for “Relax”; I for “Inner Helpful Thoughts”; E for “Explore Solutions and Step Plans”; N for “Now Reward Yourself!”; D for “Do it Every Day!”; and S stands for “Stay Strong Inside”. The program corresponded with a book and a series of lectures that were given to the eighth-grade class earlier on in the year. They focused on the teenage brain and how it develops throughout the years. The FRIENDS program is meant to teach students important life lessons, however, we find that it isn’t very effective.
The issue with the FRIENDS program is that eighth-grade students aren’t taking it seriously. Students in the eighth grade hear that they are almost in high school and therefore think that they are mature enough to be independent and make their own decisions and don’t have to listen to something that is trying to tell them how they should live their life. This causes eighth graders to not listen to what the FRIENDS program is trying to teach them. Also, the curriculum of the FRIENDS program is inconsistent. While some advisors have a specific schedule for when they teach the concepts, other advisors vary the number of days that they work on FRIENDS during the week. The irregularities in the lessons make it seem as if FRIENDS is not part of the curriculum and is not something that students should think about routinely. This is an issue because eighth graders don’t see the program as something that should be taken seriously, as though it were another class.
The content of the FRIENDS program is presented is somewhat immature for the eighth-grade student body. The concepts that are introduced to the students are important, however, they aren’t being taken seriously because of the clichéd manner that they are introduced in. For example, one of the activities for “Inner Helpful Thoughts” is to label your thoughts as “green light thoughts” or “red light thoughts” and try to turn your red light thoughts to green. While this might be a valuable concept, the strategy seems to be aimed at younger students, which causes eighth graders to view it as a joke more than a lesson. This is why we suggest that the FRIENDS program should be used for younger students, such as fifth and sixth graders.
We suggest that FRIENDS should be instituted into the younger grades of the Middle School. Since we want to change to come from the students, not the teachers, the program should be instituted earlier so that students know what they should do in the future if the need to be an upstander occurs. The FRIENDS program wouldn’t have to be exactly the same as it is in the eighth grade, due to the fact that eighth graders have read a book on the teenage brain and can connect the program to that. However, the lessons have to be consistent in order to be perceived more as a curriculum in order for it to be seen seriously.
We believe that the Middle School needs to change the approach and the methods used to deal with serious offenses. The implementation of the FRIENDS program in the eighth grade is not an appropriate course for the upper half of the middle school. The program needs to be introduced in the fifth or sixth grade so that the students are more enthusiastic about the program and will take it more seriously than introducing the program in the upper half of the middle school. In the upper grades, a new program could be introduced that covers more age-appropriate topics. This program could be connected to the lessons earlier in the year relating to the teenage brain, as it becomes more relevant as students get older and enter high school. By taking this action, students in the middle school will learn what to do in situations of bullying in order to become upstanders.