Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Value of Community (Classroom or Family) Meetings

I'm back, and I have to say how much I have missed writing everyday!  My computer has a virus and is with the Geek Squad.  It is taking a very long time.  Hopefully, I will get it back soon but for now, I am at school and working on the computer there.

A community is a group of people who share common interests, goals, and who may share a comon space.  In Montessori we always begin with the "big picture" and then look at the pieces and see how they fit together to develop the whole concept.

Therefore you belong to the following communities:
  • You are a member of the universe.
  • You are a member of the Milky Way Galaxy.
  • You are a member of our Solar System.
  • You are a member of planet earth.
  • You are a member of the Human Race.
  • You are a member of your continent.
  • You are a member of your country.
  • You are a member of your city.
  • You are a member of your neighborhood.
  • You are a member of your school.
  • You are a member of your family.
As a member of a community you have rights and responsibilities.  You also have an obligation to treat the other members of the community with kindness and respect.  One way to head off inevitable disagreements, conflicts, and misunderstandings is to have a community meeting.  At our school we hold community/classroom meeting once each month.  In our classroom we hold a class meeting once each week.  I think once per week is a good start for family meetings.

Here is how to begin using Family Meetings:
  • Choose a time that does not interfere with other activities.  Since children thrive on routine, try to be consistent about the time for your meeting each week.  So if you choose 10am on Sunday, stick to that time.
  • Choose a place to hold the meeting.  It should be comfortable but not too casual, and it should be a neutal spot.  So stay away from bedrooms and offices and think about the dining room table or a den with enough seating for everyone.
  • Turn off the electronics, phones, TV, computers, Ipods, stereos, etc.
  • Have a start time and a finish time.  For example, Our class meetings take place from 3 - 3:30 on Friday afternoons.  So any issues that are not addressed in this timeframe, they are moved to the next week.
  • Put up an AGENDA.  This should be located in a neutal place (on the refidgerator is a good choice).  It should be at a level to which everyone has access.  Community members can sign up if they have an issue they would like to see addressed.
  • When the time for the meeting arrives, gather everyone in the chosen area and call the meeting to order.  You can make a script for each family member to follow when it is his or her turn to be the facilitator.  Here is a sample:
Facilitator:  Welcome to the _________Family Meeting.  Today is July 5, 2011.  The members present are mom, dad, Bob, and Sue.  Today it is mom's turn to be the facilitator.  It is Dad's turn to be the Record Keeper.

I like to have a bell or some other offical sound to call the meeting to order.  The facilitator then gets the agenda.  The Record Keeper should have the Official Notebook with a dated page and a list of the members present.

Facilitator:  There are 3 issues listed on the agenda this week.  Let's review the ground rules for the meeting.
  1. Everyone can participate.
  2. All reasonable ideas will be considered.
  3. Everyone gets a vote.
  4. The Facilitator will ask each person for his or her input, please wait your turn.
  5. Use kind and respectful words when speaking.
The first name on the agenda is Bob, Bob please tell us what your issue is and then we will all come up with ideas to help you resolve it.

Bob states his issue.  In class, we often have the issue of forgetting to flush so let's use that as an example.

Bob: Everytime I use the bathroom, someone has forgotten to flush.
Bob does not accuse anyone of this behavior, he just states the issue.  When doing class meetings we insist that the person on the agenda not use anyone's name in order to be respectful.

Facilitator:  Thank you Bob, does anyone have a reasonable suggestion or idea to help Bob?  Sue, let's start with you.

Sue:  I think we should put a camera in the blathroom to see who is doing this.

Facilitator:  Record Keeper, will you please make a note of this.  Any other ideas?  Dad, would you like to suggest something?

Dad:  Perhaps we can make a sign for the bathroom door that says "Don't forget to flush".

Facilitator:  Thank you, please note that suggestion.  Bob, do you have a suggestion?

Bob:  No, I would like to try the camera idea.

Facilitator:  First let's see if that idea is reasonable.  Raise your hand if you want to be filmed while using the bathroom.  No one raised their hand so this is most likely not a reasonable solution.  How many of you would like to try the "Don't forget to Flush" sign?  Four votes.  Let's try this and see how it is working at our next meeting.  Please make a note of this.

Then move on to the next issue.  It might be a good idea to begin the meetings with older members of the family as the facilitator.

The benefits of a Family or Class meeting are:
  • Everyone gets a vote.
  • Everyone has a say.
  • Everyone can help resolve the issue.
  • The individuals in the family or class are working together for the benefit of the whole group.
  • By helping each other solve issues, harmony, respect, and loyalty can be cultivated.
It may take a while to get into the swing of it.  Families are more likely to run into emotional and dramatic issues, don't be afraid, know that the meeting has an ending time. If you keep your emotions in check you are setting a good example for your family.

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