Wednesday, November 28, 2007


My 5th graders met for the first time with their head start (3 & 4 year old) buddies this morning. Some of the little ones were shy and uncomfortable and some of the older kids didn't really know how to interact with their buddies. However, on the whole, it was quite a success. I feel compelled to write about it because of what I noticed with one student.

One girl in my class, very bright, friendly, and well-adjusted, never seems to be enjoying anything we do. She's happy with her friends and jokes and plays around, but during lessons she has a flat affect and is very serious. Serious doesn't really explain it though; she seems almost unhappy, but not quite. I'm not really worried about her, but I'd like to see her smiling more.

As soon as she sat down with the little girl in head start, she softened. It was a visible thing. I felt as though I could see hard corners and stiff lines melt away. She leaned in to her buddy to read and talk about the book. She smiled at her, made eye contact, and encouraged her. Her body language was completely different from what I am accustomed to seeing. She seemed maternal almost.

I could have sat and watched the two of them the entire time we were there. Other partnerships went well. I saw other fifth graders being strong mentors; asking questions of their buddy, getting their buddy to talk about his/her thinking about the book, etc. But nothing compared to watching this girl.

We will meet with our buddies every week now. I haven't done this for a few years because I haven't been able to find the time. Today's experience left me kicking myself about that. This may not help my students earn better grades or score higher on tests, but they are learning and giving something so much more important. For at least one student this half hour may be the most important thing we do all week.

And I haven't even started truly reflecting on how this benefits the little ones!


Michaele said...

Yes, yes yes! I have always LOVED having "buddies" for my kindegartners. Kids helping kids, kids sharing with eachother, no matter the age difference- they shared connections that sometimes students and I just didn't fully develop. With all of the physical and emotional changes the older kids were aware of experiencing, singing along with my kids, reading stories, and working on projects helped to focus them again. Nobody wanted to get into a fight or skip out on homework if it meant that they wouldn't get their special weekly time with my students (I never used the time as an incentive, but occasionally, the upper grade teachers would).

The BEST years were when my FORMER kindergarten students were in the sixth grade, and were buddies with my little ones! They LOVED it, and really put their hearts and efforts into it because they remembered exactly how special that time had been to them all those years before.

I know, I know, sappy sentiment, but there were (and are) social and academic advantages for both age groups. Good for you!

AMY S. said...

ahhh, shucks. thanks for writing this up. All of the buddy partnerships I've arranged for my older elementary students have been excellent. i also like how it gives me a chance to connect with and begin building relationships with the little kids who will one day be my students. it helps me to remember them as first and second graders, and it helps them to have known me for a few years already.

slouching mom said...

That's so sweet. But I wonder why she holds herself in so much in general? Do you think her parents are pressuring her to do well in school?

Jenny said...

SM, I've been wondering the same thing myself. The astounding thing is that she is this way even in after school activities. She's on our jump rope team, which is a lot of work but a ton of fun for the kids. One of the coaches (another teacher) immediately recognized her when she read this post.
My interactions with her parents have been good. I haven't been struck by the thought that they are unreasonably pushing her - although it is always possible.
She fascinates me and I'm grateful for any thoughts!