I was so inspired by a post written by Jeff Hogan, one of the principals I have the honor of working with in Baltimore County Public Schools, that I asked him if I could re-post it on my blog. Being a generous and enthusiastic servant leader, of course he said, “Yes.” It has been powerful to witness his steadfast courage and commitment to lead this work at Elmwood and to see the transformation taking place. Jeff and his team know that this work takes time and that is it personal. I trust you will find his reflections as meaning as I found them to be. Enjoy…
Utilizing Morning Circles to Help Strengthen Classroom Communities
By: Jeff Hogan, Principal
I have always considered myself a very passionate and enthusiastic educator. However, one facet of this amazing profession I have grown more passionately to pursue is the need to address the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of school communities. You certainly do not have to look far to recognize the “instabilities” in our global society. It is without hesitation I choose to view these “instabilities” as an opportunity on campus to reclaim civility hoping the learning experiences of our youth transfer into broader communities. I am so proud that the Elmwood school community stands united in this expressive endeavor and has warmly embraced the opportunity to build our restorative practices capacity.
One very advantageous first step was the implementation of classroom morning circles on a daily basis. A circle where each day the entire class says “good morning” to every child within the circle. A circle where all opinions count, tears are embraced, and empathy and sympathy are nurtured through the rich experience. A circle where discussions among children consist of deep and profound topics such as, but not limited to, bullying, role-models, forces of nature and its devastation, race, and even equity. A morning circle where virtues are discussed at length, and grit and growth mindsets are cultivated. A circle where some children arrive on-time simply to ensure they will be a part of the morning discourse.
Through this novel experience I determined expeditiously that children exhibit almost an innate ability to share their truth with more ease than most adults. This simple morning circle, when done with purpose and daily, can serve as a game-changer in and out of the classroom. This morning circle can help ensure the classroom experience feels more like an opportunity to the school staff to address the needs of every child’s social, emotional, behavioral, and academic well-being. Acknowledging as a staff our students’ basic needs and social-emotional welfare must be addressed first or simultaneously with academic rigor and standards is paramount.
Why…because life is better when surrounded by those who choose to support you, embrace you and love you because of your imperfections. Knowing that perfection comes with time and communities are strengthened as members are more thoroughly known and celebrated for their individualism.
So, no, I never believed my space in education would look like this 19 years in. Where character education is more vital now more than ever before and could be the remedy for “instabilities” in society. Without the consideration of educating the whole child it is obvious that communities will remain, at best, mediocre.
The invaluable truth to this restorative journey is that the children are making me more mindful of my emotions, my actions, my thoughts, and my true propose. Undeniably, it’s a journey worth continuing to travel.