Class Meetings

Are we having a class meeting today?”  Melanie, a fourth grader, asked as she bounded out of the classroom.  “I sure hope so. I want to talk about what happened in the handball game yesterday.”

“Yes, we’ll have our meeting right after recess,” replied Mrs. Rodriguez.

“Yay!” shrieked Melanie as she ran off to play with her friends.

After our staff discussions about building school community we had done some research and decided to institute class meetings.  We had heard from staff at another school who said discipline issues for them had been reduced significantly since starting that procedure, so we discussed the idea and went to observe a similar school.  After seeing their success we decided to hire the same consultant to train all of us. So far the process was working effectively.

When the recess bell rang, the students in Mrs. Rodriguez’s class quietly lined up in single file on their room-numbered line in the playground.  They waited for their teacher to come out and escort them to their classroom. You could hear a pin drop as they walked down the hallway to Room 25.

“OK, guys.  Let’s see how long it takes us to get into our Class Meeting circle,’ said Mrs. Rodriguez.

All students moved their desks to the side of the room, picked up their chairs, and almost like clockwork, each placed a chair in a circle in the middle of the classroom.

“One minute and 48 seconds, terrific!  That is a class record.  You guys keep getting better at this every day.  Yesterday it was two minutes; today you beat that time by 12 seconds.”

All the students in Room 25 got ready for compliments.  That was how Class Meetings began.

Mrs. Rodriguez started with the student to her left. ”Nicholas, do you have a compliment today?”

“Yes, I’d like to compliment Melanie because she helped me solve a fraction problem yesterday. I couldn’t figure it out and she showed me the step I was missing.  Thank you, Melanie.”

Melanie beamed.

They continued around the circle with each student paying a compliment to someone else in the class for something they had done that showed they were practicing life skills.  A couple of students didn’t have a compliment, or couldn’t think of one at that moment, and passed.  Mrs. Rodriguez came back to them at the end of the round.  Riley paid a compliment to Geraldo for showing him how to pump up the kickball.  The look on Geraldo”s face said, you just made my day!   You could tell that it made him feel really good.  Actually, it was probably the first time he had ever received a compliment.

After compliments Mrs. Rodriguez looked at the Class Meeting Log.  The first item on the list was one submitted by Tamika.

“Tamika, you wrote that you wanted to discuss a play structure incident this morning.  Has that been resolved, or do you still want to discuss it?”

“We took care of that at recess so you can take it off the log.”

“OK, thanks, Tamika.”

Mrs. Rodriguez went on to the next item.  “Melanie, you wanted to discuss something that happened in the handball game yesterday.  Is that still an issue?”

“Yes, Ellie and her friends play easy on each other so they can stay in the game, but they play really hard on everyone else.  I don’t think it’s fair.”

This started a discussion about the situation.  Ellie had an opportunity to talk about her side of the story and defend her position.  When the discussion ended, Mrs. Rodriguez asked the group for a resolution.

“What do you guys think?  Is there any consequence that needs to be issued in this situation?  Or do you think that it can be resolved by just not having it happen again?”

Ellie agreed that she and her friends would play fair with everyone, and the class agreed that if it happened again Ellie and her friends would sit out playing handball for one recess.

This was how it went at Class Meetings.  When little issues were dealt with in an open and fair process they didn’t grow into big issues.  In this situation, Melanie had a venue to share her concern, Ellie had an opportunity to defend her side of the story, and the rest of the class acted as judge and jury.  The criterion for consequences was simple––it had to be respectful, reasonable, and related to the event.

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