Above: My classroom set up for a class meeting
So many teachers applaud class meetings as a sanctuary for students to openly discuss their feelings and ideas. Research proves that these meetings benefit students by enhancing the class environment, reducing behavior problems, and helping students improve in key areas like leadership and collaboration. I don’t know why I haven’t tried these earlier.
I guess they seemed difficult to organize and track. Maybe I thought the importance of my instruction outweighed the ambitious idea. I’m not sure what I thought, but whatever made me decide to do it today, I am so happy that I listened to it!
Here is the agenda I created: Class Meeting Agenda
Students eagerly volunteered to serve as leader, note-taker, and timekeeper (Leaders received a prize for their participation.) I explained the purpose, then set up the rules. In the future, I would probably have them create the rules to promote ownership, but this way saved some time.
When the time came to express their concerns or make suggestions about the class itself (curriculum, environment, instruction, procedures), they were open and honest. They admitted they didn’t like doing work on the computers frequently and they thought it was too difficult to have Google Classroom along with Haiku (our Learning Management System.) Students were happy to suggest ideas for activities, like throwing a ball around the class to get people to participate or letting them sit on their desks. They also said they liked group work and would like to work more on group projects.
Some were disappointed in my rules, but not having food in class is a school rule and we really can’t risk damaging the Chromebooks with food crumbs or sticky drinks. Perhaps I should have just listened to the suggestions and not said this, however, because that fueled their intensity and they started to get even angrier about it. Really they should be leading the discussion and answering their own questions, so maybe I will not give any explanations next time. They suggested a class party or other way to get to know each other, which I thought was a fair idea. Maybe I will let them eat and drink when we have class meetings and the computers are put away. One student suggested having a party if the entire class kept a certain GPA. Very interesting ideas.
Another student brought up another teacher’s grading scale that has a low F threshold (I think it was 20% or lower.) Fortunately, I did not react to this suggestion. I really wanted to say that we should not lower our standards and I thought about the quote that talks about “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” but I just listened. My face probably showed that I disagreed, but at least I kept my mouth shut.
As for them wanting more restroom passes, I explained the problems with tagging and drug use in the restrooms and tried to justify myself, but again, it would have been better to simply let them air their grievances and then considered their ideas at a later time. I did have the idea to award extra restroom passes as a reward, so maybe that would be a good compromise.
As for the problems and possible solutions regarding the students in the class, both 10th grade classes identified students talking too much as a problem. They suggested consequences of giving a verbal warning and then kicking the violators out. I was surprised at how quickly the students intervened if someone was talking out of turn or if someone was fooling around. Some students said they didn’t like when students were disrespectful because it bothered them and they said things like, “what we do here is for you to learn; it’s not for the teacher” and “you have your phone out while we are talking. That is rude and disrespectful.”
We then reviewed the Boys Town social skills sheet that we had passed out earlier and they voted on the top 3 social skills we should work on in the class.
Finally, we wrapped up by each person giving a compliment about our school, our class, or someone specific. After some silliness, we had to limit compliments to one per person, we banned compliments about hair, clothes, or shoes, and we decided not to compliment inanimate things like desks or the floor (one student said he really liked the tile.) After each student had a turn, the other students applauded them on their own. I did not tell them to do this, nor did I expect them to. I think that act alone demonstrated the supportive nature of the classroom meeting and encouraged me to want to do this again. The majority of students wanted a weekly meeting on Fridays, and research confirms that class meetings are most effective when held on a weekly basis. I am looking forward to it!
Have you ever conducted class meetings? I would love it if you would share your tips or ideas with me in the comments.