The following blog is from a teacher at middle school who took a risk and tried something in a different way. Here, she highlights communication as an important competency for her grade 8 students. She also writes so clearly about the area of social and emotional competencies and the surprises she has seen in this area.
This learning opportunity is also a wonderful example of the incorporation of the First People's Principles of Learning highlighting especially 'Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities', 'Learning ultimately supports the well-being of self', and 'Learning is holistic, and relational'.
The pictures of the students and the seniors really tell a story.
Navigating social situations and developing interpersonal skills at middle school is challenging, especially in an era when communication revolves around cell phones, social media, and virtual connections. The chaotic energy and amped emotions that dominate middle school hallways leave little room for students to develop their face-to-face communication skills. Meanwhile behavioural expectations in the classroom don’t usually allow for practice of communication skills that resemble those seen in a colloquial setting. To help develop these important interpersonal skills our class partnered with some seniors from the Trinity Care Centre to form a rather unconventional, but successful buddy program.
‘Who will hold the door?’, ‘How do I roll a wheel chair over a curb?’, ‘How many wheelchairs can fit in the elevator?’, were some of the questions tossed around as students readied themselves for their first hosting experience. Instead of following a traditional visitation approach our class decided to host our seniors to a series of visits at our middle school. Each visit took a different shape and varied in structure. However, consistent throughout all visits was that the students were responsible for planning and providing care to their senior buddy. The end result: an amaze-show.
There is something magical that happens every time we bring the seniors over to our school. It’s hard to explain the positive effect they have over everyone in the building: students and adults alike. For that one hour a month, when the seniors are in the building, we all slow down. We get out of our heads and ‘come down to the ground’ to connect with them. We lock eyes for a little longer, smile a little wider, and for that one hour…. we become the best version of ourselves.
At the outset this partnership wasn’t intended to be more than a couple of visits with the seniors. However, due to the overwhelmingly positive response from the students we extended it until the end of the school year.
Some unexpected outcomes of this partnership have included:
- Seeing students who don’t participate in school come to life and fully engage
- Learning that both students and seniors want to spend more time with each other despite initial feelings of nervousness (for both parties)
- Shifting student attitudes and perspectives to include a greater sense of appreciation and respect for the fascinating lives our buddies have led.
A big thank you to this teacher.