I have brought that concept back into my personal life by deciding to stop trying to begin a work out regiment by myself. I always seem to start strong and then fade away. Instead, when I got back, I lined up a plan with my friend to work out five mornings a week before school. It takes extra commitment to line up work outs with someone else, but the success that I have achieved already by enlisting a work out partner to hold me accountable has multiplied. Now I have one of those minds that is ALWAYS churning....sometimes I'm not sure if it is a gift or a curse, but while I was on a run one day, the idea occurred to me of transferring the accountability concept into my own classroom. Once the idea came to me, I couldn't push it away; it just made so much sense. My 8th grade students are so concerned about what others around them think about them, I was sure that having an accountability buddy would make my students more responsible within my classroom.
How I Implemented Accountability Buddies:
1. I sat students down in a circle of chairs so everyone could see one another and explained that we were going to try something that may make them think that I had lost my mind. I told them they would each be selecting an accountability buddy who would become their table partner, their "turn and talk" person, someone who checks to make sure they have written each day's assignment in their assignment notebook, all their materials are out and ready for class, their behavior is where it is supposed to be throughout the class period, etc. The other big factor in that when things don't go right for someone in that class, their accountability partner may be part of that conversation with me when it comes to formulating a plan with that student about how they could turn things around behaviorally or academically. A million things were circulating through their minds, and I could see them beginning to make eye contact with their closest friend in class, silently signaling, "We're going to be buddies, right?" WRONG! That's when I threw them for their next loop.
2. I asked everyone to stand up and look at their classmates. It was now time for us to select our buddies. The rules for buddy selection were simple:
1. Girls select girls, boys select boys for buddies.
2. The person you select must be someone who is not your close friend.
3. Take a risk with who you select.
4. The class will "buzz" you if we feel that your buddy selection doesn't meet the above criteria.
3. I then strategically called out names of students in the class, alternating between boys and girls, selecting class leaders who I felt would take a huge risk in the selection of their buddies. They did not let me down. I couldn't have matched them together better if I tried, and we only had to "buzz" one selection.
4. As buddy pairs were put together, I allowed each pair to pick a table within the room where they felt would be the most responsible place for them to sit. Buddies shared a table. Once again, I could not have configured a better seating chart if I tried.
5. Once the buddy pairs were selected and seated, I took extra time the first couple of days to allow time at the beginning and end of class for students to check in with their buddies and talk during the "turn and talk" and "share" portions of the minilesson. In addition, I had students fill out goal sheets in relation to their reading, writing, responsibility, and classroom behavior and had students share these goal sheets with their buddies so that their goals were clear, and they could be held accountable for these goals. To download this goal chart, click this link: Accountability Buddy Goal Sheet
Positive Effects from Accountability Buddies:
1. Students talking with students who are outside of their regular social group. It seemed to unify my whole class as one and eliminate the little cliques within my class that I had noticed throughout the year. It truly warms my heart to see students being nice to one another and encouraging someone who they never even looked at or talked to prior to this. For some of my students with low self-esteem who didn't seem to connect with anyone in class, I have seen class participation and just overall happiness during my class improve.
2. Behavior changed dramatically. My largest behavior problem was paired with a model student who is also a very fun and down-to-earth student. Through his subtle cues as the behavior began versus me having to address behavior constantly in front of the whole class; it made a dramatic difference. Also, talking in general (which usually makes you want to pull your hair out in an 8th grade class) diminished as well. I attribute this to students reminding each other to stop talking versus me having to constantly be asking students to stop talking, as well as the fact that their accountability buddy isn't their best friend; they're someone who they have a relationship with for a purpose in my classroom.
3. Homework completion and in-class work completion improved. Many things go through a middle school mind throughout the day; by allowing that time at the beginning and end of class for students to check-in with their buddy and check to make sure they're writing down homework reminders, my habitual missing work students began turning in more work. Also, having conferences with buddy pairs when only one student is missing their work seemed to be the extra push that many students needed to get their homework done and not let their buddy, or themselves down. The amount of students receiving a grade of a "D" or lower went from four during Quarter One to one during Quarter Two.
4. I've alluded to this in the two previous positive effects, but the self-regulation of student behavior is probably the biggest thing that sticks out to me. I spent so much of my time previous to this checking on missing work, giving verbal behavior reminders, etc. I now have students doing this on their own, being self-sufficient middle school students who are taking steps in developing intrinsic motivation.
5. It brings humor and community to the classroom. My ideal classroom environment is one that is incredibly structured with routines and common expectations for all. Within that, however, I want students to feel comfortable, laugh, enjoy, and have fun. I have found that without the structure and expectations, the "fun" part that I also desire within my classroom becomes chaos and is not a desirable learning environment for anyone. I have also found that being super, super structured without any fun feels like you're working in a prison. Using accountability buddies has created that perfect in between for me in my classroom.
I created the poster below for my students with pictures of their buddy pairs and quotes that we discussed about accountability and leadership focused on how leaders hold each other accountable with high expectations.