Recently, I attended my 30th class reunion…yes, I am that old. The reunion was spread over two evenings and included a home football game (we lost by the way) and a riverboat cruise. Although we had a modest turnout,  I was so excited to see a lot of my old friends at both events!  At one of our

My old school!

dinners, I noticed the segregated tables and how cliquish the groups still were after all this time.  As my husband and I were deciding where to sit, I looked at him and said, “You know what I want to do, right.”  My husband knows me all to well and responded back, “Lead the way.”  Instead of choosing a table with a group of my friends, something I would have never done at 17 years old, I sat with some classmates that I did not know very well.  After sitting with them for a while, I decided to walk around the room to make sure that I spoke to everyone.  Although it was uncomfortable to talk to people I hadn’t seen in three decades, I felt a sense of satisfaction and pride from talking to my classmates.  Now, if only I had been that confident to do that when I was teenager!


The Pink Ladies aka “bad girls”

Truly, if adults have trouble talking to others outside of their clique, think about how difficult it must be for teenagers.  A clique, according to the Center for Young Women’s Health, allows a person feel like he or she belongs.  The group sets rules for popularity, unacceptable behavior, trends, and more.  In this group, a teen can feel comfortable because he or she takes on a specific identity (i.e. jock, nerd, bad girl, cheerleader, or emo); however, this identity can be striped away if the individual does not conform to the group’s standards or rules. Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, in an article for PsychCentral, believes it is important to help kids stay away from cliques way before they become teens.  In her article, she gave some suggestions of how parents can educate their child about the dangers of cliques.

  • Parents should model diversity in their own friendships.
  • Parents can help their child develop good social skills,  like being a good friend.
  • Parents can help their child develop empathy for others.
  • Parents can encourage the child to follow activities that interest him or her.  Finding people who generally have the same interests may lead to lasting friendships and relationships.
  • Parents should assist their child in developing confidence.

While parents can promote these traits at home, educators can continue fostering these characteristics in teens by encouraging activities that challenge students to get to know their peers at school.  One great activity to promote social skills, empathy, and confidence at school is Mix It Up Day!

What is Mix It Up Day?

Mix It Up Day was created over ten years ago by Teaching Tolerance to encourage students to stretch their “social boundaries” and get to know other students.  Typically held at lunch, some schools have taken the concept and created a day or week of activities.  Even if students aren’t willing to sit with others at lunch, it is a great moment to show why your students should think about stepping out their comfort zone. So whether you decide to have a lunchroom activity or incorporate activities in the classroom, the Teaching Tolerance website has a ton of great ideas for your event.  Think about participating on October 27th. 

How to Get Started

Mix It Up Twitter Chat

Getting Started – Mix It Up Toolkit

Downloads  – Includes posters, press releases, and clip art.


Mix It Up Lunch Activities
Mix It Up Day Ideas – Pinterest page by Carol Miller.
Middle and Upper Grades Curriculum Guide by Teaching Tolerance

Mix It Up Photo Booth Activity

Becoming a Model School

How To Become a Model School

Resistance By Students

But I Want to Sit With My Friends!

Changing School Climate

School Climate


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