The following book review was written by a student contributor, aged 13. The review is published as submitted to preserve the perspective and ability of the contributor.
This book is written by Dr. Mel Levine, a pediatrician and author and Jarvis Clutch, a middle school student. Jarvis is a kid who documents and analyzes social behaviors of other students around his middle school with Dr. Levine, for a period of time. He documents behaviors such as: social categories, peer pressure, social cognition, and fitting in.
There are 5 social categories in every school. The 5 categories are…
1. Popular – Respected by large amounts of students and have good reputations.
2. Fairly Likable – Generally well liked, mostly nice, not everyone knows them.
3. Controversial – Popular with some students, unpopular with others, usually part of a group of kids not accepted by other groups.
4. Mostly Hidden – Nobody knows them well at all, they seem to be invisible a majority of the time.
5. Rejected – Usually feel miserable, They are often excluded from other activities with peers.
In order to change your social category or fit into a certain category, you need to get along with other students. Fitting in with other students consists of talking right, acting right, and seeming right.
Seeming Right includes looking right and acting right. Your appearance can play a big roll in your social status. How you move your body can make a big social difference. You could be too close or too far from a person. Some people don’t like their peers being hyperactive. Seeming cool affects your social image. How might you seem cool to people? Looking as if something doesn’t bother you, walking and talking smoothly, you’re accepted by at least one group. All of the preceding were things that people interpret as cool.
Talking Right is another part of fitting in, it can shape the way people see you. Your tone can change the meaning of the things you say. Along with the tone is word choice. Someone who uses positive, kind words has a better chance of being accepted, rather than someone who uses mean, insulting words. People who can regulate their tone and use appropriate language are usually good at carrying out conversations. Skilled conversations require you to listen, wait, and then respond to whatever the person may have said. Conversation is a good skill to have because you will utilize it very often.
Acting Right, is a critical part of your social cognition, the most important part in my opinion. Many of your peers will judge you by your actions. It is also a way of being socially accepted.
Avoiding aggression is very important to your image. Peers can be aggressive because: they may be too competitive, they may be insensitive to others feelings, or they could have a bad aggressive habit.
Social reacting is the way someone addresses or reacts to a problem. For example, Ben had his pencil broken by Jim, an older student. Ben could respond by: A. Telling a teacher, B. Throwing a temper tantrum, or C. Asking the Jim for another pencil. Two of these three options would be socially acceptable because the right things to do would be to either tell a teacher or ask the student for one of their pencils. Throwing a temper tantrum over a small matter would be disruptive to the other student’s learning.
After a conflict has occurred, conflict repair should come into play. Conflict repair is when the parties involved in the incident figure out how to make things right with each other. Conflict repair for the situation with Ben and Jim would include Jim apologizing to Ben and offering to replace his broken pencil.
Collaboration powers and holds any group project together. No matter what kind of project or job your group needs to complete, collaboration will always dictate whether or not the project gets done well. The key to collaborating with peers is agreement. When everyone can agree with each other the project will move forward much smoother.
Competitive behaviors are very common in schools. Everyone is trying to be better than everyone else in some area or subject. There is nothing wrong about being competitive but the main issue with this behavior is the way it can break friendships apart and become unhealthy. Some people become so competitive with each other they are willing to go to extremes (unhealthy decisions) just to win. These competitions put strain on relationships causing them to fall apart and sometimes become “rival”.
Being the best person you can be socially can be tough. Self monitoring can help you help yourself. Self monitoring is watching how you speak and act so you can improve your behaviors later. By doing so you will get better at socializing. To understand how you can self monitor, it is better to talk to a counselor, therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist about what you think you are struggling with and they can tell you what you should look out for when you are interacting with the community.
I thought this book had a lot of information in it that made sense to me. It was well written and I was able to learn about different social categories that I never knew existed. I never really focus on social groups when I’m at school because I wasn’t that interested in who was in them or what they did. This book has helped me understand some previous challenges that I’ve had with peers at other schools. It also helped me understand why people have reacted to my behaviors in the past.