A student entering Marlborough has a lot to learn. There is the schedule to interpret, the homework load to manage, and the social sphere to navigate. The Sister programs, in which 7th and 8th graders are paired together and incoming 9th graders are paired with their classmates, are great to combat the chaotic first weeks—in theory.
Through these programs, Sisters should bond enough to interact regularly. The depressing reality, however, is that the programs do not create the long-lasting connections they promise.
Sisters tend to interact only within organized activities. Marlborough girls are busy, which makes it easy for them to stop talking to their Sisters when the official program ends. Combine this with only a few lackluster activities per year, and the Sister programs are a recipe for failure.
In addition, the time that is allotted for the program is not used effectively. The planned activities are not ideal for helping students bond and cause the programs to fall short of their goals. For example, 7th and 8th grade Sisters walk to Larchmont after no introduction, share an awkward lunch, and desperately try to make conversation, all the while trying to find a table in the lunch chaos. As fantastic as a Wine and Cheese number four on ciabatta may taste, it is not enough to make two strangers feel comfortable with each other.
We recognize that going to lunch creates a more informal atmosphere, but some ice breakers might help get girls talking. Games such as “two truths and a lie” may get a little old, but fun ice breakers do exist and would give girls something to talk about while chowing down on their sandwiches.
In addition, a lack of compatibility causes awkwardness between Sisters. If they don’t at least share a common interest in an extracurricular activity or academic subject, conversation is bound to stagnate.
While the 7th and 8th grade buddy system falls a bit short, the 9th grade buddy system accomplishes more. New 9th graders are put in the same advisory as their Sister and, because they are in the same grade, they have a lot more to talk about. Whether it’s complaining about the workload or singing camp songs around a fire at Pali, the 9th graders’ relationship is based off of a lot more than one lunch to Larchmont. That being said, it would help if the 9th grade twins were paired based on similar interests.
The Sister programs are designed with good intentions, and by holding more events, allowing students to participate in more ice breakers, and pairing Sisters based on their interests, the programs will only improve.