Dear Coach Linda,
I have a diverse group of students in my
homeroom, and I’d like to help them connect to one other. So far they seem like
a collection of cliques, and many of them feel no strong connection to school.
How can our advisory time help them connect with each other and get more out of
Coach Linda says,
You’re off to a good start by asking
the question. Many teachers find that without intentionally building
relationships across cliques they cannot establish the context of safety and
trust crucial for students to connect with students different from them and take
the risk of really trying to learn. Many social and academic learning
experiences involve failures along the way, and most adolescents will not risk
the embarrassment of mistakes if they don’t experience knowing and being known
in a friendly environment.
When we systematically put in place structures
that facilitate connectedness, that build relationships across differences of
age, culture, color, class, education, and skills, we create classrooms in which
adolescents are willing to learn from us and each other.
well-structured advisory at the beginning of each day helps build a community of
trust that fosters learning. When advisory meetings include opportunities to
build understanding among students, and differences become topics to explore and
share about in safety, teachers can become trusted guides. Following is a sample
advisory meeting that can open up the issue of understanding across cultures.
This kind of meeting is best done in a circle, and takes approximately 20
minutes. Before you talk about differences, do some fun community-building
meetings to build relationships, inclusiveness, and safety.
meeting, write a message on a chart or board:
Most of us have had
I avoid mixed
I get along with most people.
I enjoy variety in the
Leader gives a “Huddle up” direction such as “Huddle up if you
like to swim.” Students who like to swim go to the middle of the circle and
greet each other. Those who don’t like to swim remain seated. Other categories
might concern food, music, sports, daily activities, etc. Make sure that
everyone has been greeted at least once.
Sharing: Think, Pair,
Give this direction, and allow a minute for students to come up
with a response: Think about a time when you felt you were the only one in a
group who was different in some way (e.g., you were new, older or younger, the
only person of your gender, color, or culture, the only person dressed a certain
way, etc.). Pair up students, and tell them: Share with your partner about a
time when you felt different. After the paired share, volunteers may share out
with the whole group.
Activity: Something’s Different
looks carefully at the person who volunteers to be It. It steps into the hall
for a minute and changes one thing about his/her appearance (e.g., switches a
ring to a different finger or opens a button on a shirt). When It returns, the
group has a couple of minutes to look carefully and name what is different. You
can play more rounds if time permits.
Finally, read the greeting message
and discuss the responses people made to the poll, noting the largely
unconscious preference to stay close to our comfort zones with people who look
and act very much as we do.
This is an example of the sorts of meetings
that build connections across student differences. There are many sample CPR
meetings designed to build connections across differences in The Advisory
Linda Crawford is the co-founder of Origins and the
Developmental Designs approach.