Imagine a group of Kindergarten students who just entered a classroom and are starting their morning jobs.  Children are saying good morning to teachers and other students as they excitedly discuss what they did last evening.  Students are reading the Class News, writing interactively on the electronic whiteboard, and checking for special job responsibilities.  The children independently order their lunch, “Who wants to try Mediterranean Vegetable soup today?”  The scene is loud and a bit chaotic but clearly the students demonstrate a sense of comfort, belonging, and responsibility.   Then everyone gathers for Morning Meeting, sitting quietly in a circle and greeting classmates and teachers in turn, beginning the day as a learning community.

This daily ritual centers us in the classroom and allows us to become a cohesive group where every voice is heard and where every person in the room is valued.  At the Academy, Early Childhood and Lower School classes use Responsive Classroom®, a research and evidence based approach to learning that emphasizes social, emotional, and academic growth in a strong and safe school community.  In an environment where social skills are taught equally with academics, we discovered that children are able to take risks in learning; share ideas, accept mistakes as part of learning, and value individual talents and differences.   Our “community of learners” — teachers, students, administrators, and parents — are creative, empathetic, curious, inquisitive, and confident learners.

There are many aspects of Responsive Classroom® that help create this community, but our favorite and perhaps the most representative aspect is Morning Meeting.  We greet each other, read the Class News, and share an activity that gets us warmed up for the day.  The greeting is important to welcome each person to our room. Sometimes we simply shake hands and say good morning.  When we are studying the rainforest, we might take turns flying like a toucan to greet each other.  Because our Learning Links continent is Australia, we frequently greet each other with “G’day, mate!” Perhaps our favorite greeting is the Namaste greeting.  We put our hands in front of our hearts, we bow to the other person and say, “Namaste” which means, “The goodness in me recognizes the goodness in you.”  What a beautiful image it is to see students and teachers bow to each other and say, in effect, “ I know we will make some mistakes today, but that’s how we’ll learn. We are both good people who have a lot to contribute to this community. Let’s give it our best try.” What a great start to the day.  Namaste!