I have a series of “lectures”, as the kids call them, that I launch into when a kid is struggling or sabotaging himself. The older kids who work with me regularly know them pretty much by heart, to the point that I can start and they’ll cut me off to finish for me. Often in that eye-rolling tone only someone between the ages of 11 and 17 can produce.
But in the past couple of months, something odd has happened. A pair of students, a high schooler and a junior high student, who regularly work with me at the same time have realized that I’m giving them the same lectures because they have similar problems. (This realization may or may not have been preceded by a few rounds of me saying, “Did you hear what I just told the other student?”) Now, when one hears the other say something that sounds like he or she could have said it, he or she quotes the relevant lecture. More often than not, it’s the high schooler lecturing the junior high student, but he’s straightened her out on more than one occasion.
One day, the junior high student realized that he and the high schooler were lecturing each other more than I was lecturing either one. He expected me to be bothered by this, but I pointed out that I had noticed he reacted more positively when the lecture came from her instead of me. He wondered aloud why that was, and she explained that it was probably easier to hear it from someone just a couple of years older than him than from an adult. She’s right. Sometimes, especially when it feels like a kid is getting battered from all sides by adults, it’s easier to hear useful bits of wisdom from another kid going through similar struggles.
It’s not peer teaching in the strictest sense, but it’s helped form a positive bond between the two students. They know they can nag each other when one of them is struggling through a rough patch and help each other out, but they also know I’m still sitting right there and can (and will) step in if things get beyond a point where they can help each other. Where both have historically struggled to find their own confidence and motivation to keep pushing forward, they now have a support system that’s led to both of them showing more confidence and more independence.
And they’d both argue hotly with me if I pointed that out.
Disclaimer: This post was written with the knowledge and consent of both students as long as I kept their names out of it.