Be-A-Buddy Reverse Inclusion Progam

8th grade students serve as positive peer models by providing dignified social opportunities for students with social needs.

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I am the LLD (Language and Learning Disabled) teacher at our middle school.  When I started here, I was essentially hired to create and teach the LLD program since there wasn't one prior.  I felt I was meeting the academic and language needs of our students. Where I struggled, was with how to address their delicate social and emotional needs and so Be-A-Buddy was developed. Through mentoring and friendship, typical 8th grade students volunteer their choice period twice a week to provide dignified social opportunities for students with language and social needs with the platform being sports.  The outward display of empathy and inclusion is contributing to cultivating a more caring and socially inclusive community in our middle school.


update: 3/27/17 Here's a quick lesson to get started.  This lesson is on goal setting and making yourself a promise at the start of the school year.   I've also included a google student survey to get a feel for where students are as you  start the year.  I do another at the end of each MP and a final one at the end of the year. **see attachments




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Michael Schurr

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"Thank you so much for connecting on the phone yesterday to provide some coaching! It was really helpful to collaborate and receive feedback. Please check out the updates here and let me know what you think. (Beth)"

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Attachments (2)

Be-A-BuddyReverseInclusionProgramEmpathyTGuild (2).pdf

In working with my coach, Michael, I've created a pdf file to share the specifics on how you can develop your own reverse inclusion program and promote empathy in students. I invite you to check it out! https://docs.google.com/document/d/1J2sLwnWSpji3xMhLP9s-SQUqg78BzLlleMfo7oaukvk/edit?usp=sharing updated March 18, 2017

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Check out our google doc. We would love you feedback!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1J2sLwnWSpji3xMhLP9s-SQUqg78BzLlleMfo7oaukvk/edit

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Elizabeth:
That's an amazing story! What types of activities do they do together? How did you first get other students to join you? How might we spread this feeling of inclusion throughout the school? Would love to see you build on this idea!
Lisa

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To answer your questions, I first got students to join by writing a description of the class for enrichment class registration sign-ups. I posted something like, "Do you enjoy sports? Do you want to learn how to be a leader? Let's spend our time having fun and helping each other in Be-A-Buddy." The first year brought me a group of 5 amazing boys who were student athletes with a lot of social influence. They started the "cool to be kind" trend in our school. From then on I've had a wait list of students each marking period wanting to get into this class.
The activities we do together are determined by the choices the group makes. In the winter we are limited to the gym and fitness room in our building but in the fall and spring we play basketball, kickball, volleyball, soccer, wiffle ball etc. outside at the park across the street. Sports are a great platform for social opportunities.
By designing a similar program in your school where typical peers are involved and put in the lead, you will spread the feeling of inclusion.
I hope I've answered your questions.

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Our platform is sports but I allow our buddies to take the lead on what we play one day a week. They can choose a sport to play in the school gym or outdoor fields and courts at the park across the street. On the second day we meet, I provide a fitness room challenge exercise of the day which creates an even playing field for all.
**While the platform for this program is sports, it doesn't have to be. A teacher could choose, art, music or any other platform.
Beth

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Elizabeth Urbanski - Thanks so much for creating this program in your school and sharing it here. I think mentorship and sharing favorite activities with those who are different than you really helps to build empathy and understanding and can develop compassion.

I'm excited to see you develop the "playbook" for this idea. What would be the manual if you were going to encourage another educator to go out there and do this in their school?

Another content specific question for you - how do you scaffold the experience? How do you help the 8th graders approach this with care?

Thanks,
Emma

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It's my pleasure, Emma! I am with Gandhi who once said, "Compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use." I believe that middle school students can cognitively understand what it means to be empathetic but that those muscles don't truly grow stronger unless they have an opportunity to use them.

I've updated my page quite a bit, including a brief "playbook pdf", I really liked your play on words there. I'm working on a more detailed one, if I get selected to the next level. I also added a video my high school son, Kyle made, that tells the story. Can you give it a look and give me some feedback? I'd love to see this message of inclusion grow and get the program accessible to other teachers...

Thank you in advance,
Beth

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Emma,
Thank you for stretching my thinking with your questions.
The first 10 minutes of a 43 minute period is spent engaging students in mini-lessons on character. My "playbook" would have an outline of the mini-lessons I use to pepper the class periods when our 8th graders meet with our students with special /social needs. Some topics we cover are: identifying empathy vs. sympathy, understanding grit & mindset, finding true happiness & success, and self-care strategies & mindfulness. I would include samples of information I use to make these messages meaningful, for example: specific video and media, conversation starters etc. I would include an instruction guide on the theories and philosophies on how to encourage students to lead through inspiration and motivation over direct instruction as the process involves emotional vulnerability on the part of all stakeholders. That said, there would be a section citing recent research on social and emotional learning instruction in general that speaks to the "how-to" inspire 8th grade students to want to step outside of themselves to help others.The playbook would also include a document including follow-up activities and games.
:) Beth

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This program has more impact on students than anything I have ever heard of. Students form légitamate friendships with peers, learn social skills to the point of making a formerly non-verbal student a casual conversationalist. 10000/10 recommend.

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This program is amazing and it changed my middle school/ high school program huge impact on the school climate and the students in the class

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Thank you for all your comments and "likes". My goal is to build on this program's success and get it into other middle and high schools so that together we can build inclusive school climates like the ones we are building at our middle and high schools. A little ripple can cause some big waves. Let's do it together! #BuildEmpathy

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My experience with this program has been so positive! Disenfranchised students find themselves with an advocate, and the advocates find themselves with a friend. It is not hyperbole to say that this program changes the lives of students . Good Work, Buddies!

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I absolutely love this program! As a parent of one the "fab 5", I saw what a huge influence Mrs. Urbanski had on not only my son's development and maturity but also on his ability to connect with peers on all levels. This experience had tremendous impact on growing his confidence, and also on his ability to adapt and communicate positively with others. I also saw friendships grow which warms my heart. I do believe that this program is hugely beneficial to the students and buddies, but also to our community.

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Great program. As a graduate from the program I can honestly say this changed my life. I learned a lot about me while I helped others

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Nicely said, Sean.  Hope your freshman year is going well.  -Mr. S

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I am head over heels for this idea. What a wonderful inspired idea

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Thank you so much!

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 Be-A-Buddy is a tranformational program for all students involved.   Success is dependent on faculty leadership and adminstrative support, the involvment of kids who want to make a difference and the interest of students who want to build meaningful friendships.   As a parent of a "Buddy", I see the incredible influence this program has within our community and envision the world as a better place with "Be-A-Buddy" as a platform for inclusive, social opportunities for children across our nation who want to Be The Change.   

Beth Urbanski is a trailblazer, an amazing educator and an incredible mentor!   We are fortunate to have such an innovative and inspirational leader in our school system :) 

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Amazing program Mrs. Urbanski!

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Love this program and Mrs Urbanski!!!

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What a great program! Thanks for sharing Elizabeth Urbanski Do you think this program could be adapted to fit in elementary or high school settings? If so, how? Are there some key challenges and successes you can share from starting the Be A Buddy program?

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Margaret, Awesome question and YES, on creating similar programs in elementary and high schools! In fact, two "alumni" buddies were inspired by their experience that they started a club at their high school with the teacher from the Life Skills Class as their advisor, called Peer2Peer! It has been wildly successful in only its second year at the high school. If you want to learn how, let me know. We are presenting on this at the NJAMLE conference at Kean University on March 10th.