January 27, 2021 | Kristen Jordan
One of the important values we hold dear at Mustard Seed School is community. In the Trees Classroom, for a while now, the children have been working with a partner over several days during activity time. While partnerships may seem like a simple classroom management tool, there is so much more that is fostered, including community, by working with a partner.
Teachers make intentional decisions about partnerships and we have been having children work with one other child for about a week at a time, primarily during activity time. We might pair children who have similar interests to help deepen the work they do together. Or we might pair children who have vastly different areas of expertise and interest, in order for both children to explore something they might not gravitate toward on their own. Sometimes we decide to partner children who don’t usually work together because we want those children to get to know one another better and hopefully foster a new, strong relationship. We have seen lovely friendships developing out of some of the pairings!
Working with many different people helps children to develop many skills and habits. We have noticed that children motivate each other to play in different ways. Many partnerships have enjoyed working together so much that children are working for longer periods of time; they are gaining practice sustaining attention and building stamina. Sometimes children of different ages or developmental levels are partnered and one serves as a helper or guide to another. When you teach or guide someone in how to do something, it helps deepen your own understanding as well. We have seen some lovely warmth and kindness.
One of the huge benefits of partnerships is that this structure helps to foster social and emotional skills. The children are practicing being kind and welcoming. They are developing empathy. Children learn to share, compromise, and communicate. And all of that helps all of them to feel like they connect with others, and that leads to a greater sense of belonging in the community.
Here are a few examples that the children shared about their work with their partners this week. There is evidence of them reflecting on much of what we are working toward:
“I invited Ezra to go to clay. And then I got his clay out for him.”
“We took turns.”
“I shared when I let Ellie play with the cat.”
“Patton picked up the dice for me when it dropped on the floor.”
“I’m trying to be a good friend to Eliza. I’m looking for her timer.”
“I asked Trixie what she wanted to do next.”
“We asked each other, ‘Where do you want to work next?’”
“I felt bad for her because she didn’t get to draw for very long.”
“I waited for Patton while he finished his painting.”
“We listened to each other.”
Perhaps the real beauty of partnerships is children finding delight in one another.