Responsive Classroom® History

Back in 1981 a group of public school educators came together and shared their common vision about creating safe, joyful, and challenging school environments.  A not-for-profit organization was formed called the Northeast Foundation for Children to promote their mission. They opened a laboratory school in Greenfield, Massachusetts, to put their ideas into action.  The Greenfield Center school was formed.

Soon after opening up the laboratory school, the NEFC began publishing books and offering workshops about the practices that were being used at the Greenfield Center School.  Some of the early NEFC books are still respected books today, books like Teaching Children to Care and Habits of Goodness by co-founder Ruth Charney; Yardsticks, and A Time to Teach, A Time To Learn by co-founder Chip Wood; The First Six Weeks of School by Paula Denton; The Morning Meeting Book by Roxann Kriete and Classroom Spaces that Work by co-founder Marlyn Clayton.  Today there is a book for all 10 Responsive Classroom teaching strategies, most recently published two new books that were released this past summer called Interactive Modeling by Margaret Berry Wilson and Closing Circles by Dana Januszka and Kristen Vincent.


In the early 1990’s, the NEFC secured its first major contract to work with public school teachers in Washington, DC.  At this point the term Responsive Classroom was coined in conjunction with that work.  At about the same time, our component district, Cortland City Schools, was working with the NEFC and worked closely with the co-founders to bring the approach to their school district.  It was due to their work that OCM BOCES’ Professional Development Center (now known as Curriculum, Instruction, & Assessment) started working with the NEFC to become a licensed agency to provide Responsive Classroom training here in Central New York.  OCM BOCES still is one of only 2 licensed agencies in the country who are authorized by the NEFC to provide regional Responsive Classroom training.  OCM BOCES has had a long line of certified trainers such as Sally Kitts, Lauri Bousquet, Mary Fitzgibbons and since 2003 me!  In those years I have trained over 80 Responsive Classroom Level I week-long sessions and 12 Responsive Classroom Level II…well over 1,000 teachers I have trained in my time as a certified Responsive Classroom trainer.  I will be going on my 10th year of providing Responsive Classroom, and I am more passionate then ever to continue this work to bring this approach to teaching to more teachers and more classrooms around Central New York.  I believe that children learn best when academic and social-emotional skills are taught together with in a safe and supportive school environment.

I have had the luxury of not only being a trainer for the Responsive Classroom, but have had my own children experience Responsive Classroom at the Jamesville-DeWitt School District.  I use to enjoy hearing their stories as a parent how they learned about how to play safe and be fair during recess or how to be a good audience member when they have performances. I use to love to hear the songs they learned during morning meeting or see the morning messages that were given to them by their teacher and hung proudly in their bedrooms.  Now a college sophomore and a high school sophomore the foundational learning they received in elementary school being in Responsive Classrooms have given them the 21st century skills to be career and college ready such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and self-reflection.  I have also seen in my children what the approach calls the “Social Skills of C.A.R.E.S.” Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, and Self-Control.  I now have a nephew in Jamesville-DeWitt who shares the joy he experiences in morning meeting.  He thinks it is pretty cool that his uncle is actually his teacher’s teacher.

The approach to teaching is now currently used by thousands of teachers across the United States.

For more background on Responsive Classroom.

The NEFC has their own Responsive Classroom Blog.

Chip Wood’s Yardsticks Blog.

It is my hope that the OCM BOCES Responsive Classroom Blog is very Active and Interactive, just like a Responsive Classroom! Please post your classroom history…what have you noticed since you became a Responsive Classroom?  Share your success stories!  We would love to hear them!


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