With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Friday, September 4, 2009

Guest blogger --Nik Hartley from Motown

Nik is 13 and currently attends middle school in Detroit. He likes to write and play hoops. He's a good ball handler, but tells me, his outside shot needs work. That's Nik on the far right.


The Importance of Friends in Middle School

From my recent experiences at the overpopulated suburban school called Waldon Middle School, I know that many kids at my age exhibit extremely hostile and mean behavior towards their peers. The students who they target are primarily new kids and those who either have trouble making friends, or have been alienated to the extent that no-one wants to be around them simply because of what others say. They target those who are often alone or are ignored by the groups they hang out with, because they know that none of their targets "friends" can/will come to their aid if they are bullied.

This is not a situation that is easily ignored by the victims, because being constantly dehumanized can have a serious effect on their self-esteem and confidence to do anything in life. The mistake that teachers often make is the assumption that children will behave better and perform better if they don't have good friends in school. In my personal experience, this is the opposite of what really happens.

When I was constantly abused with no-one to help me stand up to the bullies, I felt my will to continue my schoolwork decrease. I also felt so emotionally torn down that I behaved badly in class as a way of releasing some of my stress, and because the teachers were already so against me I felt that it didn't even matter. I also attempted to be a disruptive class clown as a last resort of obtaining friends.

From all of my past experiences, I know that for a child to perform his/her best in school, while maintaining a healthy level of self-esteem, they need good friends who will stick with them. Not only does the student need to actively attempt to make friends, but the school should also encourage students to make friends with everybody and keep their eyes open for any situation where a student is excluded by their peers.


  1. Well said, Nik! Excellent!

  2. Great blog, Nik. You're right that many kids are bullies simply because they see that as a way to build up their egos and their personal power. Kids aren't the only ones who foolishly seek positions of power, thinking they will feel better when they can push other people around.

    I'm not sure that teachers (most teachers, anyway) prefer that their students not have good friends. A teacher who deliberately separates friends is usually trying to maintain order. Teachers can create a new seating chart every day, but if their only goal is separating kids who like to talk to each other, they generally just make things worse-- you have to build in time for friendly communication to make a class work and learning possible.

    Thanks for writing-- some pretty profound thinking!

  3. Two of Nik's teachers from Waldon saw this post. Nik just ran into one on his bike ride in the neighborhood this evening.

    She was supportive.

    Nik has experienced the power of the written word. I hope he blogs more--he has a LOT more to say.


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