With ties decorating their necks and rubber gloves covering their hands, around 10 to 15 Northfield Elementary boys in grades kindergarten through fourth grade volunteered to serve their peers at lunchtime on Wednesday, April 21.
These little men were a part of the after school club called Bulldog Ambassadors, which started up this spring semester. Principal John Wiedeman led the group, teaching them about respect — for others and for themselves.
“It really came out of the idea of trying to teach our boys just about respect, and how important it is not only to respect other people, but also to respect themselves and how those two go hand-in-hand,” he said.
Wiedeman expanded the 3 R’s idea for the tenets of the club. He called it “the 4 R’s of being a Bulldog Ambassador: reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic and respect.”
It’s basically a club to learn about being a gentleman, according to the student members.
Wiedeman said their club discussions and activities ranged from learning to tie a tie to how to disagree respectfully. The lunchtime volunteering was their wrap up event for the year.
“We took their recess away last week just to serve lunch and put on a tie and go work for two hours, and every single one of them was excited,” he said.
Second grader Tyler Hoadley had no problem with it. He was excited to be helpful. After all, that was one of the reasons he wanted to join the club.
When asked why he chose to participate in this after school club he said “so I could learn more about being a gentleman and learn how to be respectful to others and how to help other people when they need it.”
The idea for the club came around as Wiedeman and his staff were brainstorming different after school clubs they could host at Northfield. Wiedeman noticed a particular need for some kind of club for boys to boost confidence and put the idea of respect into practice.
“We know that extracurricular activities give students a healthy way to be involved, might help them find something that they’re really good at or might build on an interest that they already have,” he said. “There’s been some clubs … (that) teach belonging and respect yourself for our girls. But our boys don’t always have that specific to them. And so, I thought it would just be a good opportunity to focus on our boys and really tie in our goals for life that we talk about every day at school and how we can live that out.”
The club was a success this year, Wiedeman said, not only seeing his ambassadors applying what they’ve learned to other school situations, but also receiving a lot of feedback and interest in the club for next year.
“I think we are going to offer it next year,” he said. “Kids are really excited to join.”
The club is offered to students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and Wiedeman looks forward to returning faces and some new ones after school next spring.
“I see the need for kids to treat each other with respect, and I see the consequences when that doesn’t happen. But I also see the benefit of it being something that we don’t just talk about, but that we practice and give the kids an opportunity to learn how to serve other people, to learn how to treat each other with respect, to learn how to live with a mindset of, ‘Hey, I was created for a purpose, I have value, I bring something to the table,’" he said.
“It was … to really talk through some basics of being a gentleman all the way to how our behavior can either build up or hurt relationships, and what long-term effects those small acts can have, both positive and negative. But really just a way for kids to put being respectful into practice.”