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Contributing Editor: Emily Hemingway, Editor in Chief

In every grade level I’ve taught, my first goal was for each student to find a new friend—someone to seek out at recess, someone to partner with during group work, someone to laugh with. That healthy peer connection would show me that students felt appreciated and seen, that they had found a place in our classroom, and that they were practicing empathy and extending themselves to others. It’s only when those feelings and capacities are in place that students can focus effectively on the purported business of school: learning academic skills. No matter what age you are, that sense of safety and belonging must come first.

Learning to make and keep friends is a crucial life skill, which is why it’s one of the anchor standards in Center for Responsive Schools’ developmentally progressive social and emotional learning standards. As with all aspects of human development, friendships have their ups and downs over one’s lifetime, moments when finding friends happens quickly and easily, and other times when relationships are more complicated. But the good news is that teaching and modeling certain skills to our students builds their friendship toolbox, equipping them with strategies they can use throughout their lives. Understanding what students need to know and how we can support them in making and keeping friends is the focus of this issue.

In this issue you will learn more about what’s developmentally appropriate for friendships and how we can support post-pandemic connections, as well as what students need to maintain healthy friendships. Dr. Angela Bahns of Wellesley College shares her research into friendships and prejudice, and educators offer quick advice about how they teach friendship in their classrooms. Along with strategies for teaching friendship skills and tips for making your classroom friendship-ready, there are also free, downloadable activities and resources for you throughout the issue.

As you read and reflect on this issue of the Journal of Social and Emotional Learning, I hope your mind turns to your own friendships. How have your friends sustained you over the past months and years? What strategies have you developed for making and keeping friends? What skills are you working on now? Social and emotional competence is a lifelong journey for all of us, and we will learn and grow together along the way.

Articles in this Issue:

Teacher Tweets @CRSLearn

Last month, we asked our social media followers to share their tips for helping students with friendships. Here are some of the best responses, along with resources to help you act on their advice. Your response could be featured here next month! Follow @CRSLearn on Twitter and watch for our next question of the month….

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Let’s Be Friends: Initiating and Maintaining Friendships

Our earliest friendships can elicit powerful emotions and memories. Think back to a childhood friend, and ask yourself, what did I learn from them? Are your memories positive or negative? Do you remain friends? The bonds formed in childhood shape us in ways both big and small, from how we interact with others to our…

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Friendships: Why Are They So Important?

Miriam Cohen’s Will I Have a Friend? is one of my favorite children’s books. In the story, little Jim is ready to start kindergarten, and as his father walks him to school on the first day, Jim asks, “Will I have a friend?” That simple question is a wonder and worry for many children, their…

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Making and Keeping Friends

Can you think of a time when you’ve met someone and you felt instantly familiar with them? You sensed a connection and quickly became fast friends. While those rare moments of synergy can feel fateful and exciting, they do not capture the full scope of how we make friends. The social-emotional competency of cooperation is…

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