I agonized over those meetings for a quite some time. Long after the final meeting, when it was announced that next year’s fifth grade would be broken into four classrooms instead of three, and that extra support from the ESP team would be in place from the beginning of the year, echoes of these meetings still reverberated in my mind.
I agonized over those meetings… but I had no idea how to address the misconceptions and faulty assumptions that had been voiced so forcefully.
Several weeks later, I arrived at a turning point. We were invited into S’s classroom for a Writer’s Celebration. Before the official Celebration took place, we parents observed the teachers walk the kids through the opening steps of their day, including a Morning Meeting. While I had interacted with S’s teachers on many occasions, this was the first time I had seen them in action.
I was amazed and delighted at how talented they were! I studied and tried to implement best practices from Responsive Classroom for years when I worked for Project Aspire. As part of that job, I observed dozens of teachers in classrooms all over Boston and the surrounding areas. The teaching I saw that morning at our neighborhood school was among the best I’d ever seen. Period.
My brain was racing, and I knew I somehow had to capture what I was seeing. I grabbed a piece of scrap paper from the shelf and started taking notes. As soon as I got home that day, I wrote an email to S’s teachers.
Dear Ms. A. and Ms. S.,
Thank you for inviting us into your classroom today.
I wasn’t expecting the opportunity to witness/participate in a Morning Meeting. It was so great!
I can’t remember if I shared all the details with you… but in my past life I was the assistant director of program called “Project Aspire” (it was a small project based out of Harvard Grad School of Education). The goal of our program was to support the social/emotional learning of students, and most of our work was based on Responsive Classroom. I hope you don’t mind, but I took a few notes while I was in your class this morning of all the awesome things I saw.
- Visual schedule (in words and pictures) that clearly delineated the schedule for the day + expectations for what students should be doing at each juncture
- A *very* thoughtfully structured reward system, as evidenced by the timer and tracking system on the board
- Frequent positive reinforcement for pro-social behavior (“Thanks for raising your hand.” “I like how you waited for me to finish.” etc)
- The students were very aware of the behaviors they are trying to reduce (I heard you say “no blurting” several times. S informed me that the students are also working on “no side conversations”.)
- An emphasis on bringing the kids together in community in a FUN way
- EVERY child was included. Through your words and actions, you clearly value the contributions of each child…. and you model that inclusivity for the students.
It’s been quite a challenging year. As you are aware, there is a great deal of anxiety among parents about what is going to happen in fifth grade. I’m hoping to be helpful (from the parent end) in channeling some of that anxious energy in a more productive direction 🙂
If either of you would be willing to meet with me after vacation to discuss this topic (building a stronger school/parent partnership), I would truly value your input.
Thank you for all of your efforts on behalf of our children. I hope you have a wonderful spring break!
I waited anxiously for a response, feeling like I could be on the verge of something very exciting. I didn’t have to wait long. Within a couple of hours, I received this message:
Thank you for your thoughtful and kind email. It is so very much appreciated! We are so pleased that you were able to notice so many positive things, as we are working diligently to create a kind and productive classroom culture. We would love to meet with you after vacation. When is a good time for you to meet? We are free Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday after school.
Thank you for taking the time to send this email, it means a great deal to both of us!
Ms. S and Ms. A
I felt like I was standing on the brink of a great divide- the gap between home and school. And here we were, reaching across the aisle, ready to move forward together. I couldn’t wait.