The Friendship Saver

Shaping Students Templates for Managing Conflict across Their Lifespan

In a past life, Connie was a school counsellor in an all girls school, based in Sydney Australia.  Soon enough Connie earned a reputation amongst the students as the school counsellor that could help friendship groups with their friendship dramas. 

While Connie enjoyed spending her day's helping students, Connie felt frustrated that she  couldn't make enough of a impact, when helping only one friendship group or individual at a time. 

One afternoon, while travelling back from a grade 5 camp, Connie became resolute.  While travelling on the bus amongst large and small friendship groups, pairs of friends, and a few content (or not so content) solo travellers, Connie could clearly see that the friendship skills that she had been teaching were in fact relevant to all students, whether they knew it yet or not. 
Connie decided that it was backwards to only share strategies with students after their friendship had hit rock bottom.  Indeed most adults find it hard to know how to respond to difference, conflict and confrontation, and here we are, expecting young children to automatically know how best to manage their emotions, the emotions of others, and how best to respond to conflict with peers.  

That year Connie rallied together with several teachers to deliver what came to be known as The Friendship Saver Program within their classrooms.  Connie combined theories of of social development, together with her interest in Arts Education, Enquiry Based Learning and Experiential Learning.  The classroom became a safe space to explore emotions, empathy, friendship and conflict, and try on a different way of of acting and reacting in the face of challenge, embarrassment, difference, hurt and conflict.    

Incidentally, that year, this school was conducting a whole school survey to assess the degree to which bullying was experienced by students and staff in their school.  Upon analysing the data, an overwhelming majority of students that had worked through The Friendship Saver Program with their class had reported significantly fewer incidences of Bullying than other classrooms across the school. 

By Christmas that year, Connie was excited by the impact that the program had demonstrated across the school, and determined to share it with as many classrooms as possible.  

The following year Connie moved to Melbourne to commence a PhD with her former supervisor, Associate Professor Dr Mary Ainley (University of Melbourne) to formerly evaluate the F.S.P.  Connie knew that Mary had an interest in engagement for learning, social development, and conflict as experienced by children.  Connie has been tinkering away at a PhD every since (end date in sight!).