The Power of The Buddy System

March 11, 2016

It is easier for me to tell you stories about my learning curve in driving a tractor or sharing the excitement of calves being born, than it is to share that I had an idea and it might somehow be brilliant.

We, My Librarian and I are a great team, mostly I believe, because she allows me to be more than someone who shelves books.  Our elementary school is K-5.  Every class (regardless of attention span) comes to the library each week for 40 minutes.  It is often a safe haven for kids who struggle in other parts of the school day.  (Yep, we love that!)  In their 40 minutes classes are given a lesson, guidance, attention, help finding books, offer creativity, direction, redirection, advice, redirection, encourage the love of reading, how to work the Dewey Decimal System, where to put the returned books, why the book they returned to the public library is still ‘out’ and to make the library a place they like to come to…

“Our kids” are wonderful, sweet, smart, fun, funny, creative, etc….you might be surprised to know that a few of our classes are also…how shall I say…’challenging.’  It was because of one such ‘challenging’ class, that we learned the magic of the ‘buddy system.’  This class was a group of second graders…and they were awful.  Awful to each other, loud, disorganized, rude, unruly, and like a pack of wolves fighting over a cheeseburger.  Their teacher was also aware that they were…’challenging’.  When they would leave, My Librarian and I would look at each other with our eyes like saucers and say something akin to….

‘Wow, they were awful!’

“If they were 5th graders we could just try to get through the year, but they’re second graders.  We’re stuck with them for a long time…  I think we need to try to humanize them.”

We decided to try my idea..our library Check Out Buddy System.

I explain that at school each class is like a family.  We need to get along.  We need to ‘grow our hearts’, and we can only do it by being kind to each other.  I pull their library cards out two at a time and randomly pair two kids together.  I remind them that there are only 3 responses to who their buddy is…

  1.  A smile
  2. They can say, “I am glad you are my buddy.”
  3. They can say, “I am really, really glad you are my buddy.

That is is…no stomping of feet or rolling of eyes, nothing to make their Buddy feel bad, as it will make their heart grow smaller.

We use the Buddy System after the lesson.  The Buddy’s then have book check out together and some free time.  They need to help each other find books, stay together, not abandon a Buddy in the fiction section.  In the beginning there is a learning curve with some kids who seem to lose their Buddy, but surprisingly few.

I do not really know why it works, but it is like MAGIC!

The cream rises to the top…almost instantly!  The kids are smiling, helping each other and playing with one another…nicely!  The noise level is dramatically lower and the room is calmer…everyone is happier, especially the adults!

The Buddy System takes a class that cannot come into the library and sit on the rug with out arguing to a class that is a delight to be around.librarySeeing a kind little boy, who usually spends his free time with his best friend, sitting and coloring with a very shy girl, talking to her and seeing her smile….it is a beautiful thing!

…and we are all blessed.

  • Lisa

    There was an awful lot of WE in that post but really, it was all YOU.

    • There is no “I” in TEAM, but ‘thanks’!

  • Diane

    Sometimes I don’t feel like I am in the right place. I am that teacher with the awful class. It is hard to take 15 boys (and 6 girls) into the library. However, some have discovered Frog and Toad and multiple copies of the same titles. It is delightful to see two or three reading the same book to each other and laughing together. They have also discovered the “quiet reading” area with the cool seats. It is beginning to get less hectic when we visit. Perhaps a Book Buddy will be our next step! You have the best ideas!

    • Thank you friend, I know you have had some very challenging classes. I think part of the reason it works, is that the kids are relating one on one instead of one on 23! I hope it does work for you!

  • I want a “like” for Patricia’s response. She’s absolutely right. Just imagine how much impact you’ll have with these young ones over the next three years!

    • Thank you, Dear John! The ‘right’ job is an honor to have. See you soon!

  • Patricia Petersen

    Ellen, you are an inspiration. I get goosebumps when I think of the positive impact you are having on all those young lives. You are a blessing to everyone you meet. Love you so much!

    • Thank you, sweet friend, God does have me in the right spot! LOVE you!

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