How the Morning Meeting Can Transform Classroom Culture
When I read your post on how you put yourself in the shoes of your students, I imagined all these little feet running around your classroom in colorful sneakers! Then I imagined you wearing the most amazing technicolor rainbow sneaks as you dart in between your kiddos stopping to listen and watch them as they're working on all kinds of fun projects. At the same time pausing to make sense of their learning and how it impacts your actual teaching as you reflect on your process and pedagogy.
Yes, Christine, being able to walk a mile in the shoes of your students is not only important but necessary. It's a good first start! There are many aspects to building a classroom culture as a new teacher that can feel overwhelming. And yet we can't let that be an excuse for not stretching ourselves to grow in our capacity to promote and establish a classroom environment that allows our students to thrive as a community of learners. So let me share with you just one idea that I think will not only be fun to try but will support you to see a shift in how your students flourish in your classroom.
I first learned about the Morning Meeting model, while working as a school principal in an elementary school in Pasadena, Calif. I was new to that school so I was skeptical about launching too many initiatives but curious about how it could work to transform our culture. The Morning Meeting was actually first proposed to me by a new teacher who had studied it in her pre-service classes. She was frustrated with the behaviors she was seeing in kids in her classroom and on the playground. She explained that the purpose of the morning meeting was to:
Set the tone for respectful learning
Establish a climate of trust
Motivate students to feel significant
Create empathy and encourage collaboration
Support social, emotional, academic learning
She had me at "respectful learning"!
You see I'd come to a school that was in a bit of trouble. Teachers were struggling with classroom management, and kids were struggling with behavior out of class. Sadly teachers were finding any way they could to remove kids from their class and send them to me. Not good! Clearly, I needed to seek some effective, proven strategies to improve the culture and climate of the school with a team of committed teachers. I knew that we had some serious work ahead of us if we were going to build a positive sense of community that would also affect each and every classroom. So I pulled together a small team of teachers willing to work with me to learn about how the Morning Meeting could shift our school culture. They were convinced and the strategy quickly took hold!
We didn't use a fancy prepared program, we simply rolled up our sleeves as a school and with the help of this one new teacher (and good resources), we were able to "re-build" our campus and classroom community. Over time we saw a decrease in bullying and increase in pupils caring for each other. Kids began to take ownership of their learning and learned to resolve their own conflicts.
Making the Morning Meeting a daily practice in your class will take work, but it's worth it.
Let's look at some steps that can help you get started:
As with any new classroom initiative you are considering, you want to be sure to learn everything you can about how it works. Take your time to discover the what, how's and why's. Do a little bit of investigating. See if you can collaborate with others at your site to join you!
2. Establish A Time
As you make a commitment to launch a Morning Meeting, you'll need to be sure it fits with your schedule. Ideally, it needs to happen every day, first thing in the morning when students have arrived. Give it a good 15-30 minutes, but no longer than that. You want to have enough time to connect, but not so long that students have difficulty staying focused.
Take a few days to introduce the idea of a meeting, with your students, that will happen every morning in class. Let them know what your hopes are. Be transparent with them about the goals that you want to accomplish and how important they are to this process.
Parents will be receptive to the Morning Meeting if you keep them informed. Let them know right away about what it is, and how you plan to use it in your class. As with any project, letting parents know about the important learning that will take place, will support you when kids go home and share their experience. Consider inviting parents to join a Morning Meeting in your classroom if it works for you.
5. Phase in the Process
Once you're confident to move forward, take your time sharing with students all the components of the Morning Meeting structure. You'll soon find that classrooms have many adaptations to the model. A general order for introducing the process to students could be Greeting, Sharing, Group Activity, Announcements. Keep in mind that a full morning meeting may take weeks to implement, but I believe that the benefits will be worth the effort.
The five steps I've shared today aren't inclusive, but they're a way to help you consider how the Morning Meeting could launch in your classroom.
I hope you'll consider giving it a try!
Photo courtesy of Responsiveclassroom.org