The Morning Meeting; Frankly, it's the best part of the day.

I remember my senior year at Hicktown High School I was both shocked and thrilled to be voted “Most Outgoing” by my fellow classmates.  (We won’t mention the year.)    I might have been even MORE thrilled had I been voted Most Beautiful or Most Likely to Succeed, but was thrilled and surprised nonetheless.   I like to think that I received this honor because of my happy nature and my ability to make friends – two characteristics that I owe to my upbringing as a “Navy Brat.”

My father, a JAG officer, brought us up with some very strict rules.  You treat your elders with respect, you respond when people greet you and you listen when spoken to.  Some days I feel that these very basic rules of courtesy have been somewhat neglected in the busy-ness of our lives.  (I’m just as guilty as everyone else.)  The one rule that really sticks out to me is very basic.  When meeting someone, or greeting a friend, you look them in the eyes and shake their hand.  That is a rule that many teachers have incorporated into the beginning of each day with something we call “The Morning Meeting.” 

Morning Meeting, a crucial part of my day, is a great way to build community, set a positive tone, increase excitement about learning and build those basic social skills.  It’s founded on the principles that each child is important and should be given some time and attention each day. Let’s just say that some very important people doing very important research have published very important papers on this very important topic.  Teachers incorporate Morning Meeting into their daily schedules not because research tells us to, but because we know in our hearts that it is essential to build community.

 During sharing time we get a peek into their lives, and give them a peek into ours.  We hear about pets being naughty, a skinned knee, brothers being bad, visits fromthe tooth fairy, and remote trips to Africa.   Most of the time this sharing can snowball into a chain reaction.  Here’s an example of a recent “sharing” episode:

“I went to Egypt last night.”
Last night my mom and date had a date in the bathroom.”
“Last night my mom let my dog poop in the house.”
“My dog ate my dads chips while he was watching TV.
"Oh… one time I ate potato chips!"
"My dad got poker chips for his birthday"
"Hey, my mom's birthday was last week!"
"When’s my birthday?
“Hey, my birthday is in the next season.”
“Today is the second day of the season of fall.”
Fall? I falled off my bed last night.”

Yeah, our morning routine is made up of many ordinary moments. We greet, we share, we play a community building game and go over the schedule of the day.  But, sprinkled throughout this routine is often an extraordinary moment.  The morning that our precious girl Julia, who had been a selective mute most of the year, decided to greet her neighbor Hailey, and then turned to greet Ben. That was a moment I’ll never, ever forget.  It brought tears to my eyes and cheers to the mouths of her fellow students.  Had we not spent many a day laying the foundation of trust, compassion and “sharing” we might have missed this special moment when Julia felt safe enough to say hello. 

We know tests are important; we know kids need great scores to for college and schools need high test scores to maintain funding. (Thanks George.)   We also know that parents want to be proud of their children’s achievements.  But, as teachers, we never, never forget one of our most important jobs, helping EACH child feel important and valued.  When we teach each child that caring about their fellow classmates and their community is an important lesson, we are helping them, their classmates, and ultimately their community. 

(And a little funny story never hurts.)


ragemichelle said...

This was, frankly, a pleasant read first thing in the morning. :)

Mel said...

What a great way to start the day for these little ones! You are so special for helping them grow like this!

Brian Miller said...

you are a good teacher...

and i need to figure out what a date in the bathroom looks like...

Ivanhoe said...

That is a great spirit first thing in the morning! I was brought up the same way and see how people let themself go. Lately, I'm bothered by drivers which I let in front of me or do any other favor for and they would not even wave "thank you" anymore :(
Have a great Friday!

Jill said...

I read this mere minutes after receiving 2 emails from fellow parents telling me they can't make it to help out at the Halloween Party for the class this afternoon. One hour of their lives they can't devote to their children, because as one of the emails said, "I'm too busy preparing for the weekend".

You brought tears. So true. So important - not just for kids, but for adults as well. Manners are so far gone out the window. I should tell you about my new neighborhood one day - and how a few of the kids actually walked away and rolled their eyes when I was talking to them about respect ...

Mrs Dzo said...

A great way to start the day indeed. Of course, I work from home and am surrounded by three dogs and a cat. Our morning meeting is much less insightful.

Anonymous said...

Amen! Why don't people understan this? Funny thing, we had the shaking hand discussion the other night at Sunday supper. Good for you, Vmom. Have a great weekend! Sending big hugs to you. "Sue's Mom"

Gigi said...

If only the majority of adults were required to go back to kindergarten for this very important lesson.

mitchiesmom said...

An amazing post from an insider of our future!! Thanks so much for the reminders!!!

Notes From ABroad said...

I so wish I could be in your class for a year. I need it.

noexcuses said...

I love reading your stories, because they are always funny and always insightful. We have morning meetings at our school, too. It's great for the kids.

My sons grew up with a selective mute who would only talk to them, and his mom...nobody else. We moved away when he was 9. I hope that someone like you reached out to him along the way.

Ice Princess said...

Thanks for the insight into the Morning Meeting. Both my daughters have always done this in their classes and I thought it was cute, but didn't really understand the reasoning behind it.

My little Spice started kindergarten this year and loves doing this. She stood up on the first day when everyone just said their name and said, "My name is Spice and I've been to South Carolina." Still haven't figured out why that one fact was relevant that day.

Pent-Up Photos said...

Bravo to you for giving me chill bumps so early in the morning! As I say my prayers today, I am going to thank the Good Lord for leading people like you into the field of teaching! If you weren't so far away, I swear that I would move my grandchildren to your unnamed school district! I love you and your good heart, girl!


Anonymous said...

We usually do a "share" with the students when they sit down but we haven't done the greeting. I guess I figured well I only have 8 students it doesn't really matter. ( I teach kindergarten in a child care center) I want to thank you for reminding me it DOES MATTER! We started the greeting (hand shaking and saying good mornig) today. What are some of the community games you play?

Ellie Belen Ambrose said...

Shake a hand, look them in the eye, and say something nice, is the answer to our first test question at our martial arts school: How do you give a polite greeting?

I too work with these little wonders and find it so rewarding when they achieve a new level of confidence and self worth. It is our ultimate goal, to help create a secure child. Kudos!

Lorraine said...

Hopefully you'll have gotten past that "anonymous" comment above!

Please - Can you come and do an inservice to our staff regarding respect? I work in the school office and I hear and participate in all the special week-long programs regarding character development and red ribbon week, etc. Then I sit and marvel when my teachers - whom I consider my class - walk in in the morning and proceed to tell me that this is wrong, or that needs to be fixed, or they didn't get that... without even first saying hello or good morning or how was your weekend. It all came to a head last week after I had been told that the copier needed toner by three staff members first thing on a Monday morning when a teacher reached over my counter and thrust papers at me and all she said was "two transparancies". I have been known to make the students say please to me when they ask for things and before I could hold back I did the same to her. Geez, I even say please to the kid at the drive-through window at McDonalds whose taking my order. She was taken aback - I could see it in her face, but she did manage to get it out. Now I get the sarcastic please and thank you from her when she asks for things. There is an overabundance of the lack of respect and I only wish that we would all take heed from those lessons taught in kindergarten. You are laying a great foundation - wouldn't it be nice if people wouldn't cut corners when it comes time to putting on that second floor!

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