Learning to be friends

Classroom projects encourage healthy relationships between students.


One of the pillars of the educational model at the Deutsche Schule Medellin is empathy, “We understand this concept as a construction of ourselves towards others, much more than putting ourselves in the other person´s shoes” as Claudia Restrepo, Deputy Head of the school explains, that to be empathetic, it is necessary to recognise others. 

Friendship and what surrounds it, is an individual and collective construction. For this reason from different instances projects are developed in which the values that it represents are instilled. Relationships between students and families are encouraged, with the aim to create bonds, stimulate sense of belonging and empathy. The aim is to bring interaction with others closer and for academic environments to be the excuse to create relationships that go beyond the classroom. 

“In the delving that takes place in the classrooms, similarities are discovered. The first form of relationship is through proximity like sports, extracurricular activities, music, art, and science. This allows us to visualize the other person and find what unites us outside of the academic context, that is why in Kindergarten, Grundschule, Mittelstufe and Oberstufe, projects are carried out in an indirect way that allow awareness and getting to know others” concludes the Deputy Head.


“When the children arrive to the school, they are still not aware of others” explains Anne Krüger, Head of Kindergarten. The first exercises are focused on self-knowledge and development of autonomy so they can gain self-confidence. Once awareness of the I is created, it is important to introduce the concept of the other. That is why each activity is thought out from the point of view of sharing “To be with each other, to play, to build as a team”. For that purpose, spaces like the construction corner were created, where there are not enough toys for everyone, and the aim is to learn to share. “Our role as teachers is to observe without intervening. If conflicts arise, they need to learn to solve them by themselves or through the example and solutions provided by others”. In this way, if teamwork does not achieve the objective, the teachers make sure that the students understand why things did not work out. “The most important thing is that all projects have a social and emotional component” says Ms Krüger. 


“At this stage, friendships start to evolve naturally” expresses Paula Álvarez, Head of Grundschule. From the classroom, the aim is to look for a recognition of the other person, which goes beyond the space shared at school. That is why activities where students start to show a little of their homelife are developed. “They begin by being classmates and little by little start identifying their first circle of friendship”. Furthermore, moments like free time activities are also an excuse to identify affinities. Another important element is cooperative work, in which everyone contributes towards the results, these activities are reinforced in the Ethics and Values class and in training processes together with the Counselling Department.


In this instance, students start to realize that friendship goes beyond closeness. “Pre-teens are united by tastes, common ways of seeing the world and understanding the future” says Oscar Ceballos, Head of Mittelstufe. Day to day activities continue to be the main driving force of relationships with others, but the school also intentionally carries out activities like class trips and free time activities. At this stage there are also two fundamental moments of discovery of others: the trip to Germany in Klasse 6 and the trip to Isla Fuerte in Klasse 8. For Juliana Vélez, International Affairs Coordinator, being away from home living with peers “They begin to realize the meaning of a best friend”. Interaction is at its totality, and they begin to discover new dynamics in relationships “Learning to live with your friends is a valuable lesson learnt from these trips” says Juliana.


In the last years of school, relationships are strengthened, identity is discovered and the foundations for adult life are laid. “It is an age full of challenges for them, for the school and for parents, because there are many changes” explains Tim Ellmers, Head of Oberstufe. During these years, activities are carried out in the school that allow this self-discovery: class trips, mediators´ programme, workshops with the counselling department, classroom activities with homeroom teachers and the democracy programmes of which Mr Ellmers points out that “A friend recognizes the difference and the right that everyone has to participate in decision making”. In addition, the school semester in Germany in Klasse 10 is very important, as it is a moment of growth and socialization with people from another culture and of other ages. 

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