The Responsive Classroom® Continues to Evolve and Change

“If you do not change, you can become extinct” is a quote from Spencer Johnson’s 1998 bestselling book Who Moved My Cheese?. In this book, Johnson uses a metaphor of four mice in a maze and how they all respond differently to the moving of the predictable placement of their cheese. This book helps readers learn what Johnson calls “The Handwriting on the Wall” regarding “change” in life, work and family:

Change Happens
They keep moving the cheese

Anticipate Change
Get ready for the cheese to move

Monitor Change
Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old

Adapt to Change Quickly
The quicker you let go of the old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy the new cheese

Move with the Cheese

Enjoy Change!
Savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of the new cheese!

Be ready to Change Quickly and Enjoy it Again!
They Keep Moving the Cheese!

From: Spencer Johnson, M.D. Who Moved My Cheese?


In 2001, when I joined the staff developers at OCM BOCES, we read this book as a group to respond to the changes that were taking place in schools across the country due to No Child Left Behind. Since then we have experienced a few more changes with Race to the Top and Common Core and we will continue to have change in our lives as educators. Using Johnson’s metaphor helps me to “enjoy change”. I have always been a teacher who loved change and would change grade levels often just for the challenge and new learning.

Since 1981, the not-for-profit organization, The Northeast Foundation for Children, developers of the Responsive Classroom approach, have responded to changes in the educational landscape. They have always been a very reflective organization and have evolved Responsive Classroom training, practices, resources and vision to match the educational reforms that have taken place across the country. The mission remains the same, “To create safe, joyful and challenging classrooms for every child, every day.”

In response to the current educational reforms, the Northeast Foundation continues to grow and change. One of the biggest changes happened on January 1 of this year. After being known as the Northeast Foundation for Children (NEFC) since 1981, the organization has changed its name to The Center for Responsive Schools (CRS). With this, a change of logo:

Last summer there was substantial changes made to the introductory week-long workshop. The 5-day Responsive Classroom 1 workshop changed to a 4-day workshop and is now called The Responsive Classroom Course. This workshop was redesigned to meet the needs of a changing world with Common Core Standards, assessments, and teacher evaluations. The Responsive Classroom practices are taught to help teachers see how these practices create Developmentally Appropriate classrooms with Positive Community, Effective Management and Engaging Academics. (I wrote a previous blog showing how the RC practices align with the NYS Teaching Standards and “highly effective” teaching). The 2014 revision of the Responsive Classroom Course workshop was strategically re-designed so that every adult, no matter what their role is in the school (ie. principal, special area, special ed., TA, school secretary, custodian, and bus driver etc.), can use the Responsive Classroom practices to create a predictable and safe environment where children can grow socially, emotionally and academically. Many of my formally trained teachers have returned to experience the new version of the Responsive Classroom Course with rave reviews saying they feel refreshed and able to apply the Responsive Classrooms practices at higher levels within the framework of their changing school environments. Deb Moriarty, a teacher from a recent training at East-Syracuse/Minoa, commented on her evaluation form regarding her learning, “Enlightening and refreshing! Re-Awakens the educational soul to remember what is important.”

This past week, my soul was fed once again by “change”. I attended a Responsive Classroom certified teacher training in Turners Falls, MA for the new version of Responsive Classroom 2, the advance course. This 5-day training will also have an evolution of its own across the country starting this summer, which I am VERY excited about. RC2 will now be known as The Responsive Classroom Advanced Course and will be offered two different ways to better meet the needs of schools. Participants and schools will be offered choice to attend either the 4-day training or a 2-day module version of the training. These workshops will focus on two main domains of effective classrooms: Engaging Academics and Effective Management. If educators attend the 4-day training they will learn about each of the aforementioned domains, devoting 2-days to each. Educators can also opt to attend a 2-day module of this workshop focusing on the domain they want to learn more about. They will have the option to attend the other module at another offered time that fits their busy schedule. I will begin to offer this newly revised version (RCAC) here in Central NY this fall as 2-day modules. I believe teachers will really like this option due to limiting the number of days away from their classrooms. I will be offering the modules at the Syracuse Campus and the Cortland Campus throughout the 2015-2016 school year.

The Center for Responsive Schools has also been making revisions to some of their most popular books. One of the first books the NEFC published, The Morning Meeting Book (Kriete/Davis) has recently been revised and is now in its 3rd edition. This book that focuses on one of the key practices in a Responsive Classroom and continues to evolve to meet the needs of the time. 2nd editions of two other popular books: Rules in Schools: Teaching Discipline in Responsive Classroom (Brady, Forton, Porter) and The Power of Our Words: Teacher Language that Helps Children Learn (Denton) were also recently revised.

Just this March, one of the most beloved books, and one I tell teacher is a “must have”, The First Six Weeks of School was released in its 2nd edition. The 2000 version of this book has helped teachers through the years plan for a successful first six weeks of school and set the stage for a new year of learning. The latest version of this book is new, fresh, colorful and so inviting to read! The design of the book leads educators, week by week K-2, 3-4, 5-6, to create a positive community that is developmentally appropriate with effective management and engaging academics. The newest addition to the book also includes information on how to prepare for the first day of school. I remember my son’s 3rd grade teacher, Patrick Brown, at Moses DeWitt Elementary, a school in the Jamesville-DeWitt School District, saying that The First Six Weeks of School was his “bible” and he couldn’t imagine starting a school year without it. I personally love the updated changes that have been made to an already amazingly helpful book!

The Center for Responsive Schools recently published a few new books to support the Common Core implementation across the country. The Language of Learning: Teaching Students Core Thinking, Listening and Speaking Skills, is a powerful book that can assist teachers in the thinking and rigor brought on by having National Standards for ELA. This book is such a wonderful resource to teach children to speak and listen effectively, to ask and answer questions, how to craft an argument, and to use empathetic language when we agree and disagree. These are powerful skills needed to learn across all content areas! I believe that teachers who use the NYS ELA Modules will particularly find this book as a great companion to the modules and will give additional ideas to make learning more active and interactive around listening and speaking.

I sometimes hear, “I love starting my day with morning meetings, but the modules and the demands of the common core make it very difficult for me to fit it into my day.” When I hear this, I typically ask, “How might you plan a purposeful morning meeting that focuses on your learning targets for the day?”   I then encourage teachers to take a look the new Morning Meeting books developed to enhance the learning of the core with standards-based, active and interactive activities to do in your morning meeting. The books have a collection of content-focused greetings, shares and activities to make learning the core more engaging, challenging and fun. These resources have been developed to assist teachers in planning academically focused morning meetings: Doing Math in Morning Meeting, Doing Science in Morning Meeting and the newest that was just released this month, Doing Language Arts in Morning Meeting. Planning a purposeful and well balanced morning meeting with social, emotional, and academic learning will feed the day and get children excited about what they will be learning. I also see how these activities could also serve as wonderful anticipatory sets for content area lessons.

“If you do not change, you may become extinct” is a quote that Responsive Classroom honors. Change will continue to happen in education and how people and organizations respond to it is the key to remaining viable in an ever changing world. The Center for Responsive Schools has modeled for me to, “Enjoy Change!” The Responsive Classroom practices have been successful in schools across the country for more than thirty years. The evolutions and adaptations of these research-based practices are proactive responses to a changing world. New changes will continue to come in 2016. The development of the middle school version of the Responsive Classroom is a forthcoming change, that as a former middle school teacher, I am particularly excited about. Be looking for more information on this change in upcoming blogs!

I have always “Enjoyed Change” because I see it as an opportunity to feel fully alive…an opportunity to feed my soul. “Change” offers the opportunity to learn, to improve, to evolve, to adapt and to develop a growth mindset to prevent extinction. So, go ahead! Move my cheese!

Shaw_PatrickPatrick Shaw
OCM BOCES – Staff Development Specialist
Certified Responsive Classroom® Trainer by the Center for Responsive Schools (Developers of the Responsive Classroom approach to teaching and learning)

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