Emma and I had a fascinating conversation this morning on the drive to school. The conversation started because I'd mentioned that she might want gloves for recess, since it was going to stay cold all day. She grumbled that she didn't do anything other than walk around with her friend L, so it didn't matter. I was a bit confused, because at recesses earlier in the year she'd been having quite a bit of fun showing the boys how to do things on the jungle-gym-like-stuff.
It turns out that "upper elementary girls don't play at recess". Huh?
Emma's Upper Elementary class has two grades: 5th and 6th. Apparently, after spending some weeks playing at recess, she and her first-year comrades found that the second-years were giving them condescending looks. Eventually, the first-years got the message: "Stop playing. We don't play."
After she'd told me this, she said "And I'm not like you --I am affected by what other people think of me. I'm more like Daddy. They make us feel stupid, so now we just walk around the playground like they do."
Addtional things I learned about the social situation in her classroom:
Among the girls, there are two popular groups, both consisting of second years. There's one group that has a definite Queen-Bee leader, who controls her group by including and excluding the same kids at different times. There is one other permanent member, and both of these girls are frequently mean to other girls. Other girls cycle through, depending on the whims of the Queen.
The second popular group consists of nicer girls, but they remain exclusive to their group. They won't be unkind, but they won't be including you in an activity voluntarily, because apparently you're not good enough (at least that's how it feels to the first-years). Her previous best-friend (when they were both in Middle Elementary) is part of this group, and this year has pretty much ignored Emma. (There is one girl in this group who does actually reach out and interact with the first year girls, and this was one of the girls who came to her birthday party.)
Then there are the first year girls, who have grown closer and are all friendly with each other.
So, I asked her, doesn't that mean you guys are popular too, just with each other? The difference, she said, is that the first year girls hang out by default, while the "popular" girls all chose to be a group.
Plus, it turns out this actually extends to the boys as well --if you're going to "play" it has to be a team sport. Football is okay, but playing on the various playground equipment is not.
And to think this year, because all the first year girls really are nice kids (no Queen Bees in this group), is SO much better socially than last year, in Middle Elementary. Gah.
So, I told her to try not to let those popular girls stop her from doing things she wanted to do, and that life gets much better once you get to college. Small comfort to an 11 year old I suppose, but it's all I got.