Hi, my name is Jurel Ortencio and I am a Peer Support Leader for Somerville, (honestly the best house out there. Cai-what? Ford-what? Reg-what? Haha) this is how the first few Peer Support sessions were like.
The first two sessions were about introducing ourselves to each other and letting our students get to know our school more. We call this ‘Building Connectedness.’ The first session we didn’t get to do as much as we had planned with our Year 7s, only two activities in fact. Two! The first activity we did was a ball introduction, where we would pass the ball to the people in the circle and when we had the ball, we would say our name, and something we like and/or what we were looking forward to in Peer Support. This was a great way to learn each other’s names, and ensure each person spoke out loud in our group.
Our second activity was a tour around the school – which was the most time consuming – that was why we didn’t really get to do as much as the leaders had planned for the first session. Not to mention we were all so nervous as leaders, especially Chloe and I – so we were pretty much just blending in with the Year 7s because we were nervous and we are short too!
For our second session also called ‘Building Connectedness’, we were more confident and were able to complete more activities. The first activity we led the Year 7s in was called Choices, where we would ask them whether they liked this or that and they would go to that side of the room that had the choice they wanted. The questions included things like types chips vs chocolate, summer vs winter, AFL vs Soccer, etc. Afterwards, they would chat about why they chose it with someone that they didn’t know, so they could get to know each other better.
The second activity saw us creating group expectations together, to create a positive environment. Then we learnt more about each other by completing a “All About Me” worksheet, which was a pretty calm and individual activity, where us leaders all got to talk to the Year 7s to get to know them better and remember their names. No joke though, it’s pretty hard. But the students in our group have lovely names.
We ended the session by doing a paper planes exercise, where the Year 7s wrote their name on a piece of paper and folded it into a paper plane. When we went outside to throw our paper planes, we had to pick up one that wasn’t our own, go and talk to the person who’s paper plane we picked up. But this activity we will need to try again, as we didn’t really get to finish it and I don’t think the students really understood what we were doing which was sad. So we will attempt it next session, as we feel it is a fun way to continue to build connectedness amongst our team.
Our third session was pretty hectic. We went outside to do all the activities we had planned under the theme of: Building Trust and Effective Communication. The first activity was the funniest, where we did something a lot like Chinese Whispers but with funny faces instead. We all couldn’t stop laughing which was great as we know our students really enjoyed themselves.
Next, we did trust falls, where they had to pick someone they didn’t really know to trust them that they would catch them. For that activity I surprised some Year 7s by suddenly yelling their name and falling. Surprisingly, they caught me! We followed this up with a blind-folded walk, where we worked in small groups and guided a student in a blind-fold to a cone on the opposite side of where we were. We tried to block their way so that it would be more difficult for them, and to test our communication skills. It was a really powerful activity.
Lastly, we finished by discussing what was the point of the activities and reflecting on the purposes and learning behind it. There were some who struggled along the way, but we got through it.
So far, the Peer Support sessions have been challenging but really fun and engaging and I can’t wait until the next Peer Support session where we can continue to work as leaders together, building connections with our Year 7 students.
Somerville Peer Support Leader