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RIDE supports several blogs throughout our website where Rhode Islanders and RIDE staff share their thoughts.

On this page, we have collected all of the blogs on our site - many of which share posts from Rhode Island educators other than RIDE staff. Blogs are listed in alphabetical order:

  • Commissioner's Corner: Blog posts and messages from the Commissioner to the Rhode Island community.
  • District Teacher of the Year (DTOY): Posts from the Rhode Island District Teachers of the Year, past and present, who share about instructional successes and challenges they encounter in Rhode Island classrooms.
  • Equitable Access to Excellent Educators: Rhode Island educators and RIDE staff explore factors and perspectives on the importance of ensuring that all students are taught by high quality educators.
  • Leadership: Reflections and insights from RIDE’s Leadership Fellow and other district and school leaders on the challenges and opportunities of being a school leader.
  • Rhode Island Poet Laureate: Reflections and poetry focused on teaching, learning, and the experience of education from Tina Cane, Rhode Island Poet Laureate.
  • Rhode Island Science Education (R.I.S.E.): A communication blog to update stakeholders in education and in the community on important developments, events and accomplishments in science education in Rhode Island.
  • Student Voice: Because student voice is an essential component of our discussion on education, RIDE will post essays written by students from around Rhode Island.

Click on a category below to filter by a particular blog:

Building Community with Buddies

Posted by: Kamlyn Keith on 2/1/2019
Drew P. Virbila
2019 Compass School Teacher of the Year
The Compass School
2nd Grade Teacher

Personal connection and community is a universal human need. Schools should be no different. That is why, at The Compass School, a social responsibility and environmental sustainability focused public charter school in Kingston, we have chosen to create year-long buddy pairs with our students to help forge strong relationships among our students.

In early September, teachers from paired grade levels collaborate and create buddy pairs. Kindergarten and first grade students are paired with fifth and sixth grade students, second grade students are paired with fourth grade students, and third grade students are paired with seventh grade students. These groups are carefully and strategically created to ensure each pair is set up to maximize success.

Students in fifth grade and Kindergarten classroom share a buddy lunch of tabouli made from ingredients from our school garden
Students in fifth grade and Kindergarten classroom share a buddy lunch of tabouli made from ingredients from our school garden

Once the pairs have been decided upon, we start our monthly All-School Activities. These 30-minute activities are designed to be accessible to all students. Over the past few years, groups have participated in design challenges, art installations, and various other collaborative activities. To connect our student work in our large school garden, buddy pairs also get together to celebrate our harvest in early October. Students have helped prepare fresh tomato sauce for spaghetti and pizzas, diced vegetables for vegetable soup, and blended fruits and vegetables for smoothies. Mentor buddies help support their younger buddies by facilitating conversations, aiding with materials, or any other way. The mentor buddies relish the opportunity to help support their buddies, and the younger buddies have shared how enjoyable it is to have a supportive and caring mentor buddy. Eighth-grade students, our highest grade level, often act as group leaders and help facilitate the activities.

In December, we had our most successful All-School Activity to date: a school-wide trip to see the Nutcracker at the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC). Rather than having free seating on the buses, or having students sit in rows based on grade level, buddy pairs sat together. One would think that this decision would be a recipe for disaster. In fact, it was the opposite. Students were buzzing with excitement days before the performance. For the duration of the bus ride and the performance, the entire student body truly shined. It was a very proud moment for us all.

However, it is worth noting that the success of our buddy program was not achieved overnight. In the beginning, older buddies were reluctant to assist younger buddies. Often, we found these mentor buddies seeking out their peers in the classroom and leaving the younger buddies behind. At the same time, the younger buddies were often too shy or scared to open up to their mentor buddies. They simply just didn’t feel comfortable speaking up or sharing ideas.

That is when we started to problem-solve. Maybe the older students were not capable of being a mentor because they weren’t explicitly taught? We then reached out to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Rhode Island for support. Representatives came and had a working session with older buddies to model how to be an effective mentor. This resulted in far more effective mentoring than we had previously experienced. We also thought that maybe we didn’t make the Buddy Program an ingrained part of our school culture. We then began to actively promote and stress how being a mentor is a responsibility that should be cherished and taken seriously. Once the culture of the buddy pairs was established and the pairings were done more strategically, we found students were looking forward to All-School Activities and reconnecting with their partners.

Building a strong sense of community in a school takes time, but it is of the utmost importance. When students feel welcomed and supported like family members, it becomes a place that students want to be. Buddy grouping has been an outstanding way to help create a sense of belonging within and among our students, and our community has become stronger because of it.

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