This school year was the first time I’ve tried having classroom meetings. I have heard of it with elementary students, but not with secondary students. I don’t know why it took me 17 years to try something that seems so intuitive.
As a teacher, I spent so much time planning engaging lessons and examples for students to better understand concepts introduced in class. I tried to find out what music and movies were relevant, what games and t.v. shows were popular, and who the best celebrities were to reference. I thought about what I would have liked to do as a student when I was younger, which was more than two decades ago…and memory fades as one gets older!
So when I read about classroom meetings and thought about using them to check in with my tenth grade English students, I thought it would be worth a shot. Now, I don’t know if I could ever let them go.
We started holding them weekly, but students didn’t have much to say. Then we talked about it as a class and we came to a consensus that they liked having the meetings but they were too frequent. We agreed to have them every other week, which has worked exceedingly well.
I provide updates, reminders, and information at the beginning, then open the floor to students to discuss curriculum first and then address any classroom problems. For example, we decided last Friday that we would use movie clips to introduce plot elements in narrative writing. Students suggested that they themselves research the best clips, then I will preview them and select the most relevant.
In the curriculum portion, I hear student questions about what we are studying and other students clarify concepts that may be confusing. Students give me good feedback about what they are learning and how I can help them to learn better.
As for classroom problems, I shared that I was spending my own money on food for the classroom that students were taking when it was not an emergency. I told them that I wanted to help them if they had no lunch or needed food for a medical issue (diabetes, for example), but that I couldn’t help students in need if they were just taking my stuff because it was free. No one raided my food today. They have also mentioned when too much talking becomes a problem or when the seating chart should be changed.
Instead of doing everything myself and trying to guess what students are interested in and how they will learn best, classroom meetings have helped improve my teaching significantly. Students are more engaged in class and empowered and I feel more effective. I hope you will consider holding classroom meetings with your students. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment if you have any questions.
Here is the agenda from our last class meeting: January 2017 Class Meeting