Q: How many peers do I choose?
A: There is no magic number. Some groups are small, with 3-4 peer mentors. Others have 8-10 active members. Some schools choose to have large groups with several target students and 15-20 mentors. There have been instances in smaller elementary classrooms where a teacher has had the whole class participate in a Circle of Friends group. Choose the size group that works best for your particular situation and comfort level. Keep in mind, every peer who attends that first Circle meeting will not necessarily work out. Even though they may express initial interest, some won't show up for meetings, some are too busy, and some for whatever reason won't engage the target student. So, it might be a good idea to start with a larger number than you'd like to end up with. And, for middle and high school students who are on quarter or semester schedules, it might be a good idea to look at including some new Circle peers from time to time as semester or elective schedules and lunch periods change.
Q: Can I have a Circle for more than one focus student? Can I use the same peers?
A: Absolutely. There's no exact, one way to set up your circle. Do what works for you!
Q: Can a student fill both focus student and peer mentor roles at the same time?
A: We've found that even though a student may have been selected to be the focus child based on his/her needs, often times they will reach out and be peer mentors themselves as their social skills, empathy, and ability to understand the perspectives of others develop. For example, some CoF groups choose to have several focus students with various special needs. In more than one case, students with autism have become peer mentors for others on the spectrum as well as for students with various developmental disabilities. They receive feedback, social skills training, and the advantage of developing new friendships while they are helping others at the same time. It really is a win-win.
Q: Our peer mentors attend the meetings regularly but don't interact with the focus student outside of these meetings. Is this o.k.?
A: While it's o.k., you may consider adding new students throughout the year until you find a group that will continue interactions outside of meetings. Typically, teachers select peers with perfect grades, great social skills, and those who participate in extracurricular activities. These students may make good mentors, but if they're too busy with activities and their own groups of friends, consider other students who aren't so involved already. Don't overlook kids with a big heart and who may have struggles of their own. Sometimes, these students have a whole lot of time, empathy, and are willing to reach out to others. They can become your best peer mentors.