Peer Pressure

“Everytime you point your finger
Three more point right back at you
I’m not sayin’ that there’s something wrong with life
Cuz that’s a sad excuse”
– Goo Goo Dolls “Amigone”

When I sat down to write this post about peer-pressure, I had no idea how I was going to start, or what the product was going to be. This is the hardest topic for me to integrate into my classes. I know about peer-pressure first hand, but sometimes I feel strange talking about a topic to adults which is discussed in third grade. Many of our teachers feel the same way, and so we have sat around and talked about how to better bring this topic to our students.

Peer pressure is important for us to discuss with our students because of what they will be exposed to once they get out of whatever place they are currently living: prisons, jails, residential facilities or half-way houses. Once they leave, more than likely they are moving back into the same situation which had a hand for them to end up where they become our students in the first place. When they leave, they will be inundated with the same phone calls, the same friends, the same situations which may have landed them where they become our student. We tend not to harp on negative peer – pressure, because our students already think they “know” all about it. Instead, we talk with our teachers about teaching the idea of positive peer-pressure.

What is an example of positive peer-pressure? The biggest one we tend to speak about is how we as a community can help create change by simply creating change in ourselves. If we want to be apart of a better community, one that treats other’s with respect, one that thinks of other’s feelings before our own, one that maybe doesn’t jump to conclusions: we need to do that ourselves. The line from “Amigone” is an interesting way to look at peer-pressure, because it is easy for me to remind everyone about what is wrong with them, and it seems to be hard to deal with just one of my own issues. However, if I want everyone around me to be better – I need to be an example. I need to lead the change. I need to be an example of change if I believe other’s can change.

Peer-pressure doesn’t need to be looked at as negative. Peer pressure doesn’t need to immediately remind our students of the statement “If all your friends were to jump off a bridge would you?” However, if the choice of leading the jump means that we as a community stopped being what we hate, then yes – I would jump. Imagine if we stopped judging and started accepting what we could create?

That is the lesson we teach our students. They don’t need to tell all their friends what to do, instead they can simply make small changes in their own lives and therefore be the leader of their friends: the peer-pressure can work for good as well. This way, the next time they have the opportunity to say no, or to do something different, they can believe that when they do take action, they are causing positive change with their friends and family. They can then be at cause for change, and possibly pressure their peers to potentially change for the positive.

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<3 Kathryn

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