Some of you have heard the terms “Class Meeting” or “Meeting for Business” being used to describe meetings wherein the class discusses issues. We would like to use today’s newsletter to detail what these Meetings for Business look like.
When a student has a conflict with another student (or a group of students), the initial student first tries to solve the problem by being assertive. We have given the students explicit language and tools to try, e.g., “I feel (feeling) when you (specific action). I want you to stop (or other desired behavior).” With this language, the students learn that each of them has a responsibility to solve their problems.
However, sometimes the problems are more complex or difficult to resolve. In this situation, after the initial student has put forth significant effort, he/she tells the other parties involved, “I don’t think we can solve this problem on our own. I’m going to write it down in the Class Meeting Notebook.”
We don’t introduce the Class Meeting Notebook until we have developed a safe classroom environment, in which students have developed a strong sense of trust and support with one another. Our roles as teachers, during the Meeting for Business, are to make sure the discussion stays on topic, remains productive, and that no one ever feels like he/she is being attacked. We achieve this by asking thought-provoking questions, which help students find their own solutions to various problems. We also facilitate the discussion by making sure only one student speaks at a time, and providing the opportunity for all voices to be heard.
Then, during our next Meeting for Business, with the teachers guiding the conversation, the child brings the issue to the class. First we hear from all parties involved, followed by those who witnessed the event, and finally other students can share their thoughts, following the Quaker idea that the collective wisdom is greater than the individual. We hear from both the alleged “victim” and “perpetrator”, but by the end of the discussion, it comes to light that we all share responsibility for our actions during any given conflict.
The purposes of our Meetings are as follows:
- The students learn how to resolve their conflicts independently.
- They listen to one another, while controlling their behavior.
- They grow to be appreciative of one another’s perspectives (learn to empathize).
- They learn how to live and work together as a community.
-- Rich, Amabelle & Sarah
I'm impressed with the ways in which the SF Friends School tries to incorporate vital Friends practices into the classroom.