Peer Pressure

Tomorrow I’m running 13.1 miles. I am not a distance runner. My friends are. I’m happy when I run five miles. Six isn’t bad. I never have the desire to run ten miles. And yet, I’m running a half marathon tomorrow. I signed up mostly because I wanted to please my friends. However, there have been a few upsides that I didn’t anticipate. Probably the biggest is that I feel stronger than I have for the past four years. And my five-mile time has improved. Their peer pressure has helped me improve – to be my better self.

Yesterday marked the end of the second week of school. One of the teachers was out and I had the privilege of covering her first project block. Her advisory begins each day with circle. I let her students know that I was covering the class and since the school day hadn’t officially started, I ran to the office to get my stuff. I was gone for only five minutes but apparently arrived a few minutes late. When I entered the class, all the students were already in circle. They’re ninth graders. I was impressed. When I sat down, I realized they had skipped the first part of circle and jumped straight to the icebreaker. While I was still impressed, I reminded them that we couldn’t do the icebreaker until we’ve done a check-in.

“Mr. Hauger, we did the check-in.”  They saw the suspicion on my face. So one of them gently continued, “We went around the circle and each of us shared our highlight of the week and then a specific goal we would like to accomplish today.”

After just two weeks of school, these ninth grade students started class early and then conducted a circle that was deep and meaningful without a teacher. What planet was I on? Does it get better?

I do need to put this in perspective. Our school is far from perfect. As the shock of high school wore off this week, our ninth grade students began to act, well, more like ninth graders. This too is a sign of success. When school is safe, children let their guard down. What this looks like for 14 year olds can be irritating and problematic: touching, pushing, jumping, teasing or just acting silly. And there is something about one 14 year old seeing another being silly – it’s contagious.

Our intention at the Workshop School is to create a place where peer pressure puts us all in a position to be our best: To run “circle time” when the teacher is not there; to offer feedback to improve each other’s work; or even to run a half marathon when you’re really a sprinter.