When I think back to elementary school and even to my camping days I don’t remember the topic of requests being discussed. Today, one of the most popular topics at the beginning of every camp/ school season are requests. How many friend requests were actually met? As soon as assignments are distributed, we as parents immediately work to gather a list of the class or bunk, some quickly post it on Facebook, and many of us get involved in the frenzy. We believe we are doing this on behalf of our children, yet it almost seems that some parents need to know for their personal satisfaction. This concept has become a “social event” amongst parents and at times overshadows what is most important for our children- their happiness.
I recently wrote in Choosing a Summer Camp, that we all have reasons as to why we send our children to a particular school or camp. Hopefully, we have all done our research. However, there are so many other factors that we as parents need to be aware of such as the decision process that the camp/ school uses when making placements. Over the years we have allowed parents to request three friends and one is guaranteed. As educators we allow this because although we feel a particular class/ bunk is appropriate for the child, we also feel that it is important for children to be in their “comfort zone” and being with a friend can help with that. . In camp, we generally try to accommodate at least two requests if possible.
In today’s society, the parent’s excitement and possible anxiousness over their child’s placement can turn into great disappointment when the institution happens to have chosen “the one that my child didn’t really want…our child wanted/needs the other request.” This reality has become extremely sad and in most cases hurtful to a child. Usually the child does not even know or care and it’s the parents who insist on this “social placement” on behalf of their child. Often, the only reason the child is aware of it at all is because the parents announced it as a priority. Usually, when we think a child is “disappointed” they are able to get over the hurdles relatively quickly . Parents often continue discussing the topic with the child instead of helping the child move on and meet new friends. A major component that parents do not always realize is that at the same time that the institution is being pushed to satisfy a request other parents may have in confidence asked for the same children to not be placed together. Many parents don’t believe that their child would ever be negatively requested. This all too common scenario places the school/ camp in a very uncomfortable situation.
On a practical level, schools look to place children where they will learn to the best of their ability. Which teacher will develop the appropriate connection and bring out the child’s academic ability? That should be our focus. Our children generally have the ability to broaden their friendships and to meet new people every year. I applaud those families who call me on the off-season expressing an interest for their children to make new friends. Clearly, the requests are not the priority but rather the ability to broaden friendships in a new setting. This scenario reflects real life and helps prepare our children for the future.
Every school/ camp wants the best for each child. We need to trust that this is the goal of the institution we chose. While preparing for orientation and guiding staff for the most amazing season, it is important to remember that it is the success of our children that is vital and not the exact line up of friends they sit next to. Occupying the administrator’s time, especially when at least one request was granted, only detracts from the preparation and multiple hours that are needed to open the school/camp. Requests are important when used appropriately and we should be careful not to use them for our own “social placement.”