Friday, November 16, 2012

Finally Friendship Friday

"Today is Friendship Friday!" Children were exchanging their excitement to each other like spilling out from the school bus in the chilly morning.  Some kids were still doubtfully asking, "Are we really going to have Friendship Friday?"  I smiled back to them, "Yes, we are!" 

At 8:30, our principal's calm husky voice came through the intercom.  "We are going to have our first Friendship Friday this morning.  You may start moving to your designated classroom."  All 5th graders stood up to team up.  2nd grade students are waiting for them.  4th graders were unexpectedly assigned for 1st graders.  No problem.  Soon my classroom filled up with different faces from nervous little first graders to 5th graders who are ready to lead their group.  One third grade girl asked, "Teacher, did you call 3rd graders little ones?"  I quickly reply, "No way.  You should be big enough to take care of yourself and maybe have extra time to help others."  She was satisfied with a big grin. 

Our counselor's plan hit both targets, self control and leadership opportunity.  "What do you think the best rule for the safe and comfortable school?"  As the discussion began, nervousness among students started to melt.  With 5th and 4th graders facilitation, small groups, all students contributed their ideal rules.  "Be kind," "Walk in the hallway," "Use nice words," Keep our hands to ourselves," and more and more.  Soon our list was full of positive ideas.

"Now, we are going to trace our hands.  You are one of 650 hands. You are going to write your name and your idea of rule for a safe and comfortable school.  650 hands are going to up in the cafeteria next week!"  "Wow, 650?  That is a big number!" a boy with glasses exclaimed.  I asked, "Are we ready?"  As soon as I hear "yes," 25 kids are all over in the classroom tracing their hands.  I praised when heard "Thank you" from someone.  It was contagious.  One minute after the beginning of tracing, I noticed the 5th graders are standing by 1st graders and 2nd graders.  Also, 3rd graders were assisting to hold papers for 5th graders.  Of course, there were a room full of thank you's. 

The closing circle was another incredible experiences among children.  A shy little first grade girl mumbled, "4th grader helped me today.  I like that."  A big 5th grader shared, "3rd grade boy helped me!" 

I truly felt like I was bringing in my culture in this learning community because Friendship Friday idea is coming from cross grade experiences in Japanese schools.  Younger people exhibit respect to older people, even it's only one year older.  Older people's duty is to take care of younger ones, even it's only one year younger.  Since this is the culture of their land, it is easily implement cross grade activities in schools in Japan.  For example, it's common to see older students and younger students clean school properties during school time.  6th grader walks to school with 4-6 younger students behind him.  A group of older students visit 1st grade classes to help reading and serve lunches.  Different things happen in different places, but we can utilize anything good for kids anywhere.  Through cross grade interaction, they can build the new and positive relationship.  They would grow a respect and responsibility with and without words.  Thus, I am pretty content that the first Friendship Friday happened today with such a positive atmosphere. 

Later in the playground, one girl with a piggy tails approached me, "Thank you for making Friendship Friday happen today."  How did she know I was involved in this plan?  It doesn't matter.  Feeling overwhelmed, I noted, "You are welcome.  I am glad you had a good time."  Something like this never happened in Japan as far as I was a student and a teacher there.  It was a bonus for me by successfully sharing one of my strengths that nobody had known in the U.S.