At St. James, building community is important. Parents and staff collaborate on a consistent basis to work toward the whole development of each child. Our school is not a closed building, but rather a welcoming place for children and parents alike. Events such as the Block Party and Christmas Festival are further opportunities for the development of shared community and fellowship that we deliberately cultivate in our church, school and neighborhood.
Within the walls of our classrooms a similar concept exists. Children are taught to help each other. Older students are asked to be examples to younger students and younger students are given opportunities to form relationships and look up to the older students. One significant way that this is cultivated is through Buddy Classrooms. Early Childhood classrooms are paired with older classrooms to facilitate the development of relationships across all ages. At least once a month, buddy classes meet to read together and participate in a variety of fun learning activities. The specifics of these activities are left up to the individual teachers who look at current lessons being taught, as well as the interests of their students to determine what they will do at each meeting. Previous buddy classes have done cooking projects, science experiments, community service and building projects, but the possibilities are endless.
Over the years the benefits of this program have solidified its place in our school community. Younger students are given greater personal attention by their individual older buddy and feel a sense of joy and excitement when they work together. They see them in the halls and are proud to announce their buddy to the other members of their class. Younger students also begin to learn about the older grades and to become familiar with the classrooms and teachers that they may have one day.
Older students learn how to relate to the younger members of the school. They learn patience and the ability to teach new concepts to another person. They also begin to see themselves as leaders and role models (a concept that we hope stays with them in our community and eventually into high school, college and their adult lives). They too feel joy and pride to see their “little buddies” in the hallway, and as a little child’s face lights up to see their buddy, so to we see the smile spread across even the most cynical eighth grader.
At St. James, we challenge students to strengthen their abilities and glorify God with their efforts and accomplishments. We include in that the understanding of stewardship, caring for our community and the people within it, even God’s littlest ones. The buddy classes strengthen our sense of self, our relationship to others, and our relationship to God himself. That, after all, is what a community is all about.