Buddy Circles are a formalized approach to self-advocacy and peer mentorship, and an avenue for collaborative strategizing for problem-solving. Born out of a naturally occurring conversation between peers who were able to express themselves without judgment, we were moved to keep the dialogue going in a meaningful, proactive way, and find opportunities for all students to participate.
Within this safe zone of sharing thoughts, ideas, concerns, and vulnerabilities; and within the opportunity to gain meaningful feedback and genuine recognition from a peer group without judgment, our students learn about themselves, their value, and how to share that value as a means of supporting their peers. Students learn the importance of building trust, and "that what happens in a Buddy Circle stays in a Buddy Circle," thereby respecting the sharing of sensitive information.
These types of conversations act as a predecessor for anti-bullying campaigns within local middle schools, and foster a strong sense of self as students equip themselves and others with a toolkit that includes flexibility, mindfulness, acceptance, and sincerity.
Students take turns acting as the Center (the student asking for support) and are able to communicate their needs without feeling criticized. The Buddies (the students acting as support), are practicing compassion, understanding and respect, normalize the vulnerable moments, and provide strategies and solutions based on their own experiences. They also build empathy and social competence, while practicing executive function practices like: goal-setting, planning and organizing, adapting/shifting, and thinking flexibly.
Student Quotes on Buddy Circles:
“It’s very important to help all people, not just the Center. It’s not just about who is the Center in the Buddy Circle, it’s about other people.” -- 4th Grader
“A buddy is like a non-judgmental friend.” -- 5th grader
“It’s like helping someone swim who doesn’t have floaties.” -- 1st grader
“A Buddy Circle helps you when you’re struggling with basically anything.” -- 5th Grader
“Being a buddy is basically being someone who helps others, and cares for the whole school. And just because you’re in one Buddy Circle doesn’t mean you can’t be a buddy to all the people.” -- 3rd Grader
“I can help. I am happier. I am more helpful.” – 2nd Grader
“Being a buddy is helping lots of people find their way.” – 2nd Grader
“I used to have loads of fits, and now I have my strategies, and I like them.” – 1st Grader
“Buddy Circles help me because sometimes I am feeling frustrated, and then we can come to Buddy Circles and talk about how to fix the problem.” – 1st Grader
“Buddy Circles have helped me be more self-aware of how people are treating others.” – 5th Grader
“Instead of getting angry and having nothing to cope with, I have new ideas. I am not stressing about everything.” -- 3rd Grader