It’s likely you’ve heard of the “buddy bench” – it’s a popular concept at schools across the nation. In fact, many schools that I’ve visited during my reACT to Bullying presentation have some version of this concept. The bench is introduced, and rules are established for its use. These rules typically direct a lonely student to have a seat on the bench. Other students are then asked to approach a seated classmate and invite them to talk or play.
Two Clear Benefits
The buddy bench isn’t a novel idea, but it does have unmistakable benefits to a school community. The obvious first benefit is for a student who is struggling, in some manner, to have their spirits lifted by another. The obvious second benefit is for a classmate to work on empathy, social skills, and even leadership as they begin to recognize offering help to someone in need.
The Buddy Bench as Part of PBIS
Many PBIS programs focus on values such as kindness and respect, and a buddy bench dovetails nicely with these goals.
A PBIS program can change school culture and climate. When a school establishes its core values, it must also decide how those values look in action. You can never go wrong promoting kindness and compassion, and a buddy bench can be a tool for teaching these values. However, it’s not enough to simply tell students what a buddy bench is for. Having clear guidelines for its use gives students a solid course of action.
A Hidden Third Benefit
While a buddy bench is beneficial for teaching how to give and receive kindness, it also provides another very powerful advantage.
As a society, we seem to be emerging from the dark ages regarding asking for help when we need it. Even with available counseling services and focus on mental health, we often receive harsh judgment when we ask for help. I’ve noticed the hidden third benefit of a “buddy bench” is the early and even subtle message that reaching out is often a healthy strategy to deal with our problems. What a wonderful, positive endorsement of asking for and offering help at such a young age!