Friday was an exciting day at Giant’s Head. Walking around the school in the morning, there was a buzz in the air, the anticipation was building.
Like many schools we have our older classes buddy with a younger class. However, ours is different than any other I have seen. Since kindergarten I have heard my own children talk about buddies. When they were younger (k-2) I would hear stories of them playing with their buddies at recess and lunch. Once they moved into Grade 3, they were so excited to become a big buddy and mentor the younger kids in our school. My kids are not alone. The energy in our building yesterday was palpable. Walking into classrooms yesterday morning, kids would say:
Mr. Mullin, TODAY WE MEET OUR BUDDIES!
The teachers in our school invest the time to make regular meaningful interactions with their buddy class. At least once a week buddies spend 45-90 minutes together engaged in meaningful and fun activities. Most activities are designed so that the older students get to act as a mentor/teacher for the younger students. It is a priority to the staff, so it becomes important to the kids.
The spin off is amazing. First, our older kids take leadership and mentoring seriously and the genuinely look out for the younger kids during recess and lunch. In fact, on the first full day of school for our new Kindergarten students, teachers were amazed by our older kids. They went out of their way to include them in games of duck, duck goose (Gr. 5′s with K’s), showing them where the washroom is, or just taking them to play in different parts of our field. This was not a case of buddy classes working together, but rather older students investing in younger students…showing genuine care and interest.
These meaningful interactions set the stage for our Grade 5′s and our ambassador program. Like buddies, the ambassador program has been around a lot longer than I have and it has a major impact on the culture of our building. Buddies builds the foundation of responsibility and caring about your school, so when kids get into Grade 5 they cannot wait to be involved in our Ambassadors program. Kids have opportunities to act as Office Monitors, Lunch Monitors, Hallway Monitors, Morning Greeters, Announcements, Special Events and Peer Mediators in and around our school. This year every student in Grade 5 is participating - many in multiple roles. They willingly give up their recess and lunch to help out the school. I have worked in Middle schools for many years and this program puts to shame any leadership program I have ever tried to run before.
None of these programs would be in place, or be as effective as they are without the commitment of the staff. They invest the time in training students – often giving up their own lunches and recess because they know the importance of investing in relationships and leadership and its impact on school culture.
It is one of the many reasons that I consider myself privileged to work at Giant’s Head. I am proud of the commitment of our staff to develop our students into learners as well as leaders.