Buddy Classes

The last two minds in 5 Minds for the Future are the responsible and ethical minds (Gardner.)  To me, these minds are the most important simply because of how connected and global our societies are becoming.  Technology has brought the world to us.  Businesses no longer need to jump on a plane and fly to have a meeting in Paris or Tokyo.  We can log on and have a video conference instantaneously.  Even if we are the most disciplined in our field or have the most creative product, if we are not respectful and ethical across cultures (be it around the world or across town), we won’t get very far.

Gardner characterizes the respectful mind as one that “seeks to understand and works collectively with peers… no matter what their background and viewpoints” (p. 157).  The ethical mind “strives towards good work and good citizenship” (p. 158).  Together, these two minds work towards a common understanding: to be successful now and in the future, one must find a way to work collaboratively with whomever is in their group.  Although many think the internet causes us to work independently (from home instead of an office or on one computer instead of around a table) the opposite is quite true.  Technology is allowing us to work with anyone, no matter where they are.

In a video interview, Vicki Davis, who has co-created The Flat Classroom Project, says that building these skills in both teachers and students comes “one day at a time.”  We cannot just turn on a computer and expect students to work collaboratively and respectfully.  But, as Gardner also explains, at school, “students are engaged in their first work experiences” (Gardner p.142) while at school and it’s the teachers responsibility to mold and demonstrate this global work ethic.

I have not (yet) had the opportunity to work on a project like the Flat Classroom, but on a much smaller scale, students in my classroom have been working on developing these two minds in a face-to-face project:  Buddy Class.  My kindergarten class has paired up with a 4th grade class this year to be buddies, much in the style of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.  We have teamed the kids up in pairs or triads and get together weekly to work on reading and writing skills.  Students in both grades have had to learn about each other personally to create a bond that helps them work together academically.  For some, that bond happened right away.  For others, who may have had to bridge language or social skill barriers, it took a while.  The 4th graders have learned to change the words they use and the speed at which they work to accommodate the kindergarteners.  They’ve worked on being a role model for the kinders, to help them become better students, representing the ethical mind of creating a good community.  Kinder students have learned the importance of responsibility with their attendance.  They’ve learned that their buddy will be waiting for them every Wednesday at 1:30 and for some, they’ve learned that not showing up to school that day has a negative effect on their relationship.  To the kindergarteners, there is a certain awe that comes with seeing “the big kids.”  They are learning, through example and reflection, the work ethic that comes along with being a student at our school.  Some have even mentioned that they cannot wait to be 4th graders so that they can have a little buddy.  By all accounts, this is the “good work” (p. 128) that Gardner points out, as it is high quality, responsible, and engaging them towards a better community at our school.

In the future, I hope to participate in global projects using technology through programs such as Flat Classroom.  I have created global classroom fundraisers for Heifer International, but that was purely one-sided and not collaborative.  It will take time for me to figure out, as a teacher, what this will look like in a kindergarten classroom, but, like Vicki Davis says, I’ll take it one day at a time.

Gardner, H. (2008). Five Minds for the Future. Boston, Ma: Harvard Business Press.

Juliani, AJ. (2013, March 11). “Flattening classrooms and engaging minds” with global education: An interview with Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay. [blog] Retrieved from http://educationismylife.com/flattening-classrooms-and-engaging-minds-with-global-education-an-interview-with-vicki-davis-and-julie-lindsay/



One thought on “Buddy Classes

  1. I think the testament to your project working is this statement you made: “Some have even mentioned that they cannot wait to be 4th graders so that they can have a little buddy.” Really great connection between Gardner’s ideas and real-world application.

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