*Disclaimer: Names have been changed for confidentiality purposes.*
Over the past two weeks I have observed middle school students become very upset because their friendships have ended. Students have considered desperate measures due to a loss of relationships and have even considered suicide.
At what cost do relationships continue? For a middle school student in poverty… suspension or even death. Another student, Jamie, was referred to me because she was going to fight a group of friends that her former friend, Pam, had joined. It was evident that Jamie’s heart was broken when she was telling me that her friendship with Pam goes back to kindergarten. I empathized with Jamie and then asked “if you fight, what will that mean to you?” Jamie could not respond to the question because she was stuck in the tyranny of fighting for a friendship that Pam had already ended. I reminded Jamie of her consequences for fighting, and that Pam had already made the decision to move on. Since this conversation, Jamie has chosen not to fight.
Even for middle school students, relationships act as driving forces for how they thrive as students. Relationships are so valuable that some would get held back to remain with their friends, as one student explained to me. Education is not of significance when these students are living in the tyranny of the moment alongside their parents or grandparents. Middle school students from poverty thrive on relationships to help them survive during the day before they return home to the tyranny.
In comparison to the Bridges concepts based on Ruby Payne’s work, “relationships are often motivating factors” for those in poverty. Relationships are also a core driving force among those surviving in poverty.
Looking through the lens of these students has shown me that the value of relationships are that of gold, but at what cost?