The Fellowship of the Classroom
I love the Lord of the Rings series. One of my favorite aspects of the story is how the eclectic group of characters put aside their differences to serve a greater purpose, and were able to accomplish much more as a team than they would have as individuals.
The message behind this rings true in today’s society; humans long for a sense of community and have an inherent desire to be a part of something greater than themselves.
The classroom is no different. Our students come to school to learn, but we all know there is so much more than just academics on their mind when they step into our classrooms. As the teachers we bear the responsibility of modeling and teaching our students about the social and emotional aspects of life on top of academics.
In my six years of teaching, I have seen the immense impact these meetings have had on my students and myself.
1) The classroom becomes a more positive and caring place.
2) Students take risks in their learning and their confidence improves
3) As the teacher, I am reminded that my students have so much more going on than I see at school.
Class Meetings give me a better look at the student as a whole. I learn how I can individually encourage the students in my class. On top of this, the information that is shared allows for authentic connections. I can check in with a parent if I find out they’ve been sick, and or ask a sibling how their birthday party was. This gives me a way to develop a deeper relationship with my students and their families which ultimately has an effect on their academics.
“I would love to try something like this but I don’t have enough time!” This is always one of the biggest issue we all struggle with. It would be a lie if I said Class Meetings take no time at all but I challenge you to be brave enough to try something new. Class Meetings are well worth even a short chunk of time.
I teach three 5th grade classes and am not able to meet with them everyday. But I make it a priority to meet with each of them at least 3 times a week. The meetings will last anywhere from 5-20 minutes depending on how much I want to include. If I don’t get to a meeting that day, students tell me their “color” on the way out the door. If time is what’s preventing you to try out something new, Classroom Meetings are definitely worth a try. The benefits outweigh the costs!
Investing in our students’ emotional and social development is not a waste of time because, “even the smallest person can change the course of the future” (Tolkien, J. R. R. The Fellowship of the Ring).
Check out the video below for an overview of how Class Meetings work:
P.S. Check out the following email I received from a parent regarding their take on Class Meetings:
I want to thank you for being such a great teacher to Jane this year. She really enjoyed your class. I especially appreciate the group meetings you would do where you gave the kids a chance to talk about how they feel. In the intense focus to make sure our kids are ready for the Staar test and all the other academic obligations they have, emotional health is often forgotten.
But in my opinion, emotional intelligence is almost as important (maybe just as important) as academic intelligence. As you probably know, Jane is a very sensitive and introverted girl. Taking the time to talk to kids and let them share their feelings was very meaningful to Jane; she often talked about it. And I will never forget the day you took the time to write her a nice note when she was feeling upset about something that was going on with her friends.
That meant a lot to her–and to me. To me, that is going above and beyond the call of duty and I appreciate that more than I can tell you with mere words.