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!