My work this year has given me the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time in the East Syracuse-Minoa School district. Recently, I was spending my day at Park Hill Pre-K where I had the honor to be part of the Principal, Carol Feldmeier’s Whole-School morning meeting. Mrs. Feldmeier had recently attended the 4-day Responsive Classroom Course that was offered here at OCM BOCES and was already applying all she learned throughout her building as an administrator. We encourage everyone from a school, especially principals, to come to the RCC (the Responsive Classroom Course) training. There is always time given to participants to reflect how they could use the Responsive Classroom practices they are learning about in their role or setting.
A beautiful crafted morning message, written by Mrs. Feldmeier greeted her students as they filed in and followed the school rules for entering the gymnasium. There was a murmur of excitement as these adorable 4 and 5 year olds entered. A school-wide quiet signal was used to gain attention and I watched as they reminded each other what to do when they hear and see the signal.
Mrs. Feldmeier greeted her children with a warm smile and encouraged them to take a moment to say good morning to the friends on each side of them. Mrs. Feldmeier uses her whole-school meeting as a way to focus on the teaching of social-emotional skills that are important to create a safe, challenging and fun school like Park Hill.
Today’s focus was teaching children voice levels to use in the classroom and throughout the school. The teachers from Park Hill took part in the teaching. Mrs. Feldmeier discussed the differences of the 4 levels of voice and gave purpose as to when they should be used. For example a level “0” voice is used when there is no talking such as during fire drills or during quiet reading time. A level 4 voice would be the voice we use on the playground or maybe when we are asked a question in a large room like the gym. She used the interactive modeling practice of Responsive Classroom to model for the children what each sounded like and invited them to offer “what they noticed” about each model. She gave them an opportunity to practice the levels with their elbow partners.
Once modeling, practice and discussion was completed, a few fun songs were sung as a whole school focused on a themed letter they were all learning about. As I sat there I was struck by how much joy and laughter was happening in this room. There was energy of warmth and welcoming to all. Everyone felt noticed and valued. I thought how I wish every principal would take the opportunity to spend this time at least once a week or even once a month with all the students in their building. It truly builds such a feeling of true community.
Later, I sat with the teacher at lunch in the teachers’ room and noticed that Mrs. Feldmeier also had morning messages to her teachers hanging around the room. She discovered during her RCC training the importance the morning message is to not only greet and welcome the children in her school, but also her teachers and the adult community in the school.
Often, there is a misunderstanding that the Responsive Classroom practices are only for classroom teachers, but we learn that these practices are just as important to build the adult community and can be used by the school principal.
In a July 2014 Center for Responsive Schools Newsletter, Suzie Cook offers “11 Tips for Successful School-Wide Gatherings”( Click to read whole article )
Tips for Great School Gatherings
- Assemble a Planning Team
- Choose a Reasonable Gathering Size
- Decide on a Schedule
- Establish Traditions
- Focus on Clear Connections to Academics
- Use a Familiar, Simple Format
- Balance Familiar and New
- Provide Ample Time to Prepare
- Prepare Students Through Modeling and Practice
- Provide Procedures for Entering and Leaving the Gathering Space
- Follow Up with Reflection
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)