This is my second year to serve as an advisor to a group of 5th grade students. The advisory program pairs small groups of students with teachers and administrators in a weekly meeting designed to strengthen relationships and provide additional support to students.
We spend time discussing important matters in the areas of social and intellectual development, and enjoy getting to know more about ourselves and one another. We also have a lot of fun!
Fifth grade is the first time students are part of the advisory system, and it is a great joy to see their enthusiasm and hear them freely ask questions about life in the Middle School.
A long-awaited rite of passage
Fifth grade is also their first time to enter the Homecoming Door Decoration contest, apparently a long-awaited rite of passage in their minds. So, a couple of weeks before Homecoming, we began our task of designing and implementing a great homecoming door decoration. “Ours has to be great; we want to win!” shared one of our girls as I told them of our task. The boys were a bit dismayed to learn we had been assigned the girls’ restroom door, but the girls were thrilled and ready to make it as “girly” as possible.
Themes were suggested, ranging from pirates decapitating the other team’s mascot to pop culture with Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift songs. I was a bit distracted by a visitor to the classroom as the group began these discussions among themselves, and that proved to be serendipitous.
As the discussions continued, one of the girls (who had advocated strongly for Taylor Swift --- “We are never, ever, going to lose to Butler”), realized that they were at somewhat of an impasse. She quietly stood and took charge of the discussion. “What do you not like about this idea?” “What do you like most about this one?” Amidst the chaos and excitement, she listened and diplomatically worked the group to come up with a solution that satisfied them all. They landed on a theme of “cows.”
The combination of Randolph’s adoption of a couple of cows from the neighboring Jones’ farm, and a long-standing Middle School love of a certain chicken franchise, resulted in their concept. As they talked, the gifts of each child became evident. One offered to draw the cow head and quickly set to work using my iPad to find his model. Another would draw the “arms and legs,” and yet another wanted to make the sign that the cow would carry, moving to the board to show how the lettering could be creatively done. As their discussions went on, our “student leader” went to the board and quietly began listing names.
“I want to make sure everyone is involved,” she said. As she went down the list, she made sure that each person had an assignment and was able to contribute. I quietly slipped down the hall with a couple of the students to obtain colored butcher paper (my significant contribution!) By the end of the advisory time (only 30 minutes, by the way), they had a plan. Those who were drawing had their paper and headed home to begin work.
When I returned to school the following Monday morning, there was a neatly rolled piece of white butcher paper by my door. The boy with the infectious smile (and a lot of energy) had drawn and delivered a terrific cow head for our door. That afternoon, two of the girls came by my office, concerned that another group was using a similar idea. I offered a couple of thoughts and sent them off to talk with their peers. They came back with agreement and work continued. Each did his or her part. From the backdrop to the drawing to lettering to hanging the decorations, they worked together and got it done. We added a little math into the equation, and one of our boys wrote a proof to show that Randolph was indeed the greater of the two contestants. (If A=1, B=2,…Z=26, then Raiders > Rebels…do the math; he is correct!)
It was a great demonstration of children using their gifts, their creativity, and their enthusiasm. It was a great reminder of the potential in every child, and in the value of believing in themselves. They worked as a team, asking for advice when they needed it, but more importantly recognizing the value that each member brought to the project. It was fun, and as fate would have it, they did indeed win a prize for their efforts. While they enjoyed their doughnut party, I enjoyed watching the soccer player, the geographer, the swimmer, the artist, the leader, the contemplator, and the questioner come together to celebrate their creation. As for my contribution, we’re having chicken nuggets for lunch next week; it’s the least I can do!