Community Begins with the Morning Meeting
By helping students start the day sharing feelings with their peers, teachers pave the way to academic success and a happy, healthy school.
Release Date: 12/18/09
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Community Begins with the Morning Meeting
Teacher: The assassin's going to start winking at people, and when they wink at someone, that person dies. And the detective's job is to find out who the assassin is before everyone in the room dies.
Narrator: In every middle school in Louisville, Kentucky, the day begins with a healthy dose of fun. For twenty minutes each morning, students and teachers engage in a series of games and discussions designed to engender empathy and encourage collaboration.
Teacher: Speak up for your friend and let somebody know.
Narrator: These morning meetings are a key component of the district's social emotional learning initiative, called CARE for Kids, which has been spearheaded by Superintendent Shelly Berman.
Sheldon: There's a pretty complex puzzle that we have to put together to have to have a successful school. But a foundational element of that puzzle is the culture and climate of that school. And when students feel safe--
Teacher: Hello, sweet girl, you have a good day, okay?
Sheldon: When they feel that that culture and climate supports them, when they feel cared about, not only by the adults in the school, but by other students in the school, they can do their best.
Good morning, Casey.
Good morning, Tessa.
Sheldon: We have morning meetings, which are really community building meetings. Students greet each other and there's eye contact and handshakes and things.
[in Spanish] Buenos dias, amigo.
[in Spanish] Buenos dias, amiga.
Sheldon: And then there's sharing about each other's lives.
What you do?
I had a football game.
Did you all win?
Our friend's house burned down this weekend.
Were they able to find somewhere to stay after it happened?
Uh-huh, they're living in this one hotel. I forgot what it's called.
Narrator: The homestead student body president, who acts as a mentor to this sixth grade class, has seen dramatic changes since the CARE for Kids initiative came to his school two years ago.
Paul: Before CARE for Kids, it was mainly a disaster because we had a whole lot of bullying going on around here, kids getting scared to come to school, people, they're hitting people, more violent stuff. And now that CARE for Kids has came along, it had changed the whole atmosphere in the school building.
Teacher: Should look like fair. That means you want everybody to have a fair chance.
Paul: It's teaching kids how to care for one another, how to be a bigger person and how to resolve conflicts.
I'm going to get everybody to move, ready? When the cold wind blows, it blows for whoever has on shoes.
When you give us activities where we able to move, get all our noises out before school and stuff, it gets us more hyped about learning.
Two more minutes, you guys.
Bill: We have increased our attendance, our pupil attendance, every single pupil month, as compared to the previous year, so created an environment, I think, of less problems in the classroom and in the school in terms of behavior, and a sense of students wanting to be at school.
Teacher: Look at the name on your piece of paper and think of something nice to say about that person.
It isn't touchy feely stuff.
Good morning, Storm.
Good morning, Diedre.
I like your humor.
Sheldon: It's core social skills, that give students the experience and the knowledge and talent to work effectively with others.
Thanks for always being nice.
Sheldon: This is serious work. It's serious work to create a sense of community and it's serious work on the students' part to be able to manage themselves in a way that is constructive, and that's the most important contribution that they learn.
Teacher: How did it feel to say something nice about someone else?
Student: It felt good, 'cause I actually got to say something positive about somebody.
Teacher: Okay, we've been discussing bullying all week long. What are some ways that we can stop the bullying?
Narrator: Teachers who conduct the morning meetings draw on CARE for Kids curriculum materials and participate in several training sessions throughout the year.
Teacher: And I think that's what I see you all, if you struggle with anything, is the language, because it is so different than corrective language. It's all, the negative or, "Don't do that, don't do this. This is what you did wrong," whereas the language in CARE and in developmental designs is all about self regulation, about acknowledging what you've done. It's all in a positive, it's non confrontational. So is that what you all see, is the language, as probably the biggest change?
Narrator: There's also a CARE for Kids leadership team in each school, which includes the principal and key staff mentors who mentor their colleagues.
Teacher: Maybe they'll become more engaged. As far as the one young man that, you know, we had discussed and he's sometimes, you know, has an issue...
Teacher: We need to politely ask him to take a break out of the classroom--
Joanna: Tell Jasmine what you think is special about her.
I like when you share with me.
Thank you-- Caroline.
Narrator: The morning meetings and other elements of CARE for Kids have helped promote academic gains and reduced disciplinary problems since it was adopted in 2007.
Joanna: Jasmine, tell us something that's really special about you.
I like to ride my bike.
Joanna: The whole morning meeting not only sets a really good tone for the students, but it sets a tone for me.
Thanks for filling my bucket.
Joanna: How did they fill your bucket today, Jasmine?
'Cause they was real nice to me.
Joanna: And what happens when your bucket keeps filling up?
My heart starting dancing.
Because people are?
Saying nice things to her.
Joanna: When I see them first thing in the morning, and the smiles on their faces, they're excited, they want to be here, I'm ready. My bucket is full.
Narrator: For more information about what works in public education, go to Edutopia.org.
Produced, Written, and Directed by
- Ken Ellis
- Karen Sutherland
- Doug Keely
- Rob Weller
- Mark Crowner
- Amy Erin Borovoy
- Christa Collins
- Peter Coyote
Additional Footage Courtesy of
- Jefferson County Public Schools
- © 2009
- The George Lucas Educational Foundation
- All rights reserved.
Support for Edutopia's Schools That Work series is provided, in part, by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
© 2009 | The George Lucas Educational Foundation | All Rights Reserved