The XIs are engaged in a multitude of rich lessons about the lives of the Medici family during the Renaissance and are reading about the dramatic advances in Medieval Europe. Equally important is the changing social culture and noticeable modification of friend groups that occurs during the XIs year.
With adolescence comes the freedom to be more independent, but it can also take away the freedom to be friends with whomever you want. In the Lower School, one can see students work together regardless of gender. However, by the time students are in the XIs, gender seems to play a significant role in the social dynamic of the group.
One reason for gender separation is that girls generally mature earlier than boys during middle school. This divide in the groups affects aspects like humor and social media personas. One XI, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that he no longer feels accepted by the girls because he is a boy.
However, Miguel Robayo, XIsD, disagrees that the group is divided and believes that “most of the kids are at the same maturity level.”
Not all groups have had visible gender divides in the past years. Daniela Jimenez Gabb, the XIsD Group Teacher, said, “Gender Splits can be difficult…[But], some people still mix.”
Before the Upper School, students are still figuring out who they are as learners and what their interests are. Many kids do not have a small group of friends but instead are part of larger packs. Many times at the beginning of the XIs year, those large friend groups split, allowing some of the XIs to connect with people with interests more aligned with their own.
“After the girls’ group split up, I had more freedom to share my political opinions with my new friends,” said Lola Ben Shahar-Pyke, XIsD. She found that when she got older, it was more challenging to communicate with people she was friends with in the past.
Daniela also said that the XIs are learning new social skills such as reading signs and keeping close friends. Daniela continually observes the social dynamics of the XIs and understands that it can be a difficult time, but she only thinks it is necessary to get involved if students come to her. A standard solution is to have a community meeting; this lets other students know that other children are going through the same struggles they are.
Lola also explained that “people who [she] was not friends with last year are some of [her] closest friends this year because they matured a lot over the summer.”
Ellie Keane, XIsD, explained that she “likes making new friends” and now that she can leave school by herself, Ellie has more time and freedom to socialize after school. She said that she now has more of an understanding of who her best friends are.
Every year there are mixed emotions when it comes to switching up friends, with some students feeling happy with the decisions they made, while others are left with some regret.
Daniela said that although it can be hard for some students to let go of past friends, they end up making new closer friends.
Maya Lax, XIsJ, said that she is now in a smaller friend group and feels that her new set of friends give her the freedom to sit at other tables during lunch.
The negative side of the change is that many upsetting fights broke out during the year, turning past friends into enemies and making some kids leave behind their childhood friends. Some XIs said they feel sad that they chose some peers over others and wonder if they made the right choices.
Learning how to be a loyal and kind friend is not just reserved for the younger groups. People continue to learn and grow their friendship abilities through their whole lives. Even with new friend groups, the XIs can sometimes feel alone, struggling to establish their identities and talents and learning how to be a good friend to others and cope in social situations.
Through their experience this year, the XIs are establishing the kind of friend they want to be, and by the end of the school year, they have become that friend.