Building Peer Relations

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Building Peer Relations

Ms. Toni Townsend, Adviser

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Creating a Space Where We Can Be Ourselves

Homewood’s motto this year is #Homewoodfamily. As a teacher at Homewood, I’ve gotten to see firsthand the attempts the school is making to bring the staff and students together, however, I think that a major component is missing from these efforts. I believe Homewood needs to set aside more structured time for community building activities between peer groups that encourages students from different programs, grades, backgrounds, and friend groups to work together and be vulnerable around one another.

I remember when I was in High School, I would sometimes say things like, “Oh, I just copied my homework from someone on my bus” to my friends. This usually wasn’t true. I had taken the time to sit down and do the work at my kitchen table the night before, but if I said that, what would they think? Would they judge me for how much I cared about doing well in school? These worries dictated a lot of the things I did and said when I was a teenager, and as much as I’d like to say I’ve entirely grown out of those issues, I’m willing to admit that I still care a little too much about my peer’s reactions to the things I say and do. I think as a school, we need to recognize the masks all of us put on everyday, and have a space where we feel comfortable removing them and being our authentic selves with people who are different from us.

I suggest that Homewood use some of the time we have set aside for field trips, such as the walking field trip to Centennial Park, to have structured community building activities. These activities can be physical challenges that require teamwork and communication with a debrief afterward where students analyze the strengths and weaknesses they saw within their team. There could also be activities as silly and simple as tea parties held in small, predetermined groups where students who might not normally spend time together are encouraged to discuss certain topics. The difference between what we’re currently doing and what I’m suggesting is that activities will be more organized and interactions will be more intentional. Sometimes people need a push to open up to someone they wouldn’t normally speak to, and I believe there is a healthy and respectful way to give that push. 

Overall, I think the key to allowing peers to be vulnerable around one another is starting with a structure that encourages interactions between people that don’t automatically see one another’s humanity, and helping them make connections. Once that door is opened, I think we will see positive changes in the culture of Homewood and we will be one step closer to being one functional #HomewoodFamily.