Wednesday, December 6, 2017

It's interesting to observe how Smarty's social life is evolving this year.
Last year, Smarty was happy academically but struggling socially. No, she was not bullied or excluded. It was more that she was excluding herself and not willing to reach out to other kids. She also had a hard time working in groups, because she tends to be very task-oriented, and she had little patience with kids being off task during group work. At the same time, she was telling me that if they were given a chance to choose their group partners, she had to "hustle", because everyone else had their preferred partners except for a few floaters who were rejected by everyone as partners for various reasons, and she did not care to work with those kids either.
While Smarty still made things work in school, she did not have much of a social life outside of it. Her former best friend "replaced" her with a new girl friend from his class, and they did not meet up as often outside school as they used to. They also did not have much contact in school, since he was still in elementary section while Smarty was in middle school section, and recess times did not overlap. She did go to school with the same group of kids, but their social relationship was on again off again. In an entire year, she was invited to a birthday party once (for her best friend), and she mostly spent time at home reading or playing on the computer.
So far this year is going better for her socially. She is a lot more comfortable with the kids in her grade, and they are more comfortable with her. In first trimester, she was mostly able to choose her project partners, and she felt that the "give-and-take" of the projects was fair. She is learning that when teammates share an enthusiasm for the project and care about the outcome, working with others can be exciting and uplifting rather than stressful and exhausting. She still likes to "take over" as a leader, but she is getting better in listening to others and recognizing their strengths. In her recent robotics project, her partner did an actual robot building, and she did programming. Each brought their respective strengths to the project, which led to the teacher recognizing their particular project (it was an animatronic bird) as a sample that he wants to keep to show other classes. Smarty was delighted and admitted that she was not quite fair complaining about her partner's tendencies to spend a lot of time chatting with others rather than doing her job. Apparently, the other girl was perfectly able to do both her socialization and her work at the same time - something that Smarty is still struggling with.
In other positive developments, now when her former BFF joined middle school, they got close again and get together at least twice a week for Minecraft play dates. Her BFF is profoundly gifted and very different in his interests from Smarty, but they are finally at the age when they are trying to see other's point of view and not just trying to push each other's buttons. I think they are learning a lot from each other discussing books, programming languages, and just hanging out together.
Minecraft also brought Smarty closer to her walking group, because there is suddenly a topic where she can be a student and more experienced players can be teachers. Now she actually has to plan her time a lot more judiciously to coordinate her Minecraft play dates with different kids who all also have extracurricular activities. I even see her using her planner to write things down, which is like watching the hell freezing over right before your eyes.
And this is not all. Now Smarty is getting involved in two more projects of her choice. She and another girl from her class decided to contribute to "campus beautification" by painting flower pots and planting "something" in them. She is putting in her own allowance money towards purchasing materials for this project. Also, her science teacher sent her and another student in her class a link to a NASA-sponsored competition, and now Smarty and her partner are involved in planning on how they want to proceed with that.
It's very exciting for me to see my tiny and young 7th grader throwing herself enthusiastically into new experiences and learning to open up more with her peers. She seems to be blossoming this year, and we certainly hope that math acceleration challenge will be solved and that we can keep her at her current school until she graduates middle school. One of our goals for the next year is to decide what we are going to do about high school, but so far we are in research phase for that big step.

Your Turn

Do you feel that your children are comfortable socially and how do you help them make friends?

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maryanne @ mama smiles said...

It is great to hear that Smarty is doing well!

Ticia said...

I've found it is hard to keep a friendship going when there is not a shared time they are together, be it school, church, or something else.