Graduates report that one of the best parts of going to school at McGuffey is its resemblance to the old-fashioned one-room schools of the past. There is a sense of community that is created when adults and children from five to fourteen live, work, and learn together, day in and day out. Visitors comment on the ease with which older and younger students interact with each other, and with adults.
“Partners” is a McGuffey program pairing older students with younger ones that provides benefits to each group. Older students encounter unique opportunities to learn about learning, child development, and psychology through observation and experience, while younger students receive support in early learning situations, and the opportunity to develop friendships with older, more experienced students.
As partners, the older students get to be the expert, to be looked up to, and have the chance to coach, encourage, and support a younger students. With adult supervision and counseling, partners model and mentor organizing, study, game, group, and social skills. Experiences as a mentoring partner reinforce prior learning opportunities for upper unit students, providing chances to revisit old activities or concepts from another vantage point, to learn in greater depth, and to relate to the material with a new set of experiences.
Many who have tried teaching, even briefly, feel that one never understands or learns better than when one teaches. Often the person doing the explaining is the person who is doing the learning, and in a spiral of reinforcement, the role of teaching makes one a better, more organized learner.
Younger partners benefit from the big-sister/big-brother style mentor, someone acting as an anchor and providing support in the challenging but caring environment of McGuffey, and an ally on the journey of learning, growing, and becoming.
A parent whose children have been both older and younger partners writes:
“It is heartwarming to see the yearly cycle: a tiny kindergartner being helped, encouraged, and supported in the transition from home to school by a capable, confident eighth-grade partner; and nine months later, seeing the heroic eighth-grader sent off to high school with a hug and a flower by a now-confident almost-first-grader. At McGuffey, by the time they graduate, every kid is your kid.”