Saturday, May 20, 2017

Moving Conversations, Part I

At Champlain we listen and talk all day. The whole of teaching and learning from each other stands on the  relationships we build, mainly by talking. School begins with Morning Meeting, when teachers and students greet one another, discuss day’s activities, and address matters affecting their class. Sometimes a whole grade level meets for Town Meeting to celebrate their community or learn about special topics, or the whole school meets to watch student and adult presentations. These activities from the Responsive Classroom and Positive Behavior Intervention System models teach Champlain students Common Core speaking and listening standards:

SL.1.1 Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups. Third grade adds this component: building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Moving conversations along to get to the heart of the matter is necessary for addressing concerns about student behavior. Children know right from wrong, though sometimes we need a few conversational rounds before recognizing their role in a conflict. When we engage in moving conversations, children often express their shock, embarrassment, and regret. If their behavior is repeated, we create plans to support better choices in the future, and involve Mr. Greg Kriger, Champlain’s school counselor. In the principal’s office, usually a parent, teacher, guardian, peer mediator, friend, or frenemy join us.

Hearing right from wrong from a parent/guardian is among the most moving conversations that happen. The deep bond between parent and child stands on a foundation of faith and trust of which every educator dreams. In our conversations, the opposite poles of “should-have vs. shouldn’t have” melt into the complexity of a school’s social-emotional environment, set against the backdrop of our society. We are not only ourselves, but products and representatives of our history. We adults remind children not to get overwhelmed, but to remember that the only actions we can control are our own. Every day in elementary school, we have the chance to make things better than before. To be continued next week...

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