Circle of Power and Respect

Morning Meeting in Middle Schools

by Lynn Bechtel

Responsive Classroom Newsletter: 
April 2002

"CPR is fun."
"It helps my brain relax."
"I get to know kids. It's a good way to start the day."

—middle school students

Circle of Power and Respect, or "CPR" as it’s commonly called, is the middle school version of Morning Meeting. The four components of the meeting are the same as in younger grades: Greeting, Sharing, Group Activity, and News and Announcements. But the emphasis and many of the details in each of these components reflect the unique needs of middle school students and the structure of their school day.

CPR offers middle-school-age children stability during a period in their lives dominated by tumultuous change. It also allows them to do what they most want and need to do: connect with their peers. Students this age long to be part of the group but they’re often uncertain how to join together in a way that isn’t mean and exclusive. CPR gives them a way. Seated in the CPR circle, all students are seen and acknowledged. Students learn to greet each other with respect; communicate with power and authority without putting each other down; listen to each other’s stories, hopes, and fears; and talk about the business of the day ahead.

A "sharing" in an eighth grade CPR illustrates some of the benefits of CPR. It was late in the school year and Brian’s turn to share. "My sharing is going to be about comfort things you still have," he announced and then produced a ragged blanket from his backpack. "My mom thinks I should throw this away but I still need it to sleep at night," he told the class.

A typical group of eighth graders might have responded with indifference or seized on this as a golden opportunity to tease Brian for being a "baby." But this group, through regular participation in CPR, had been building trust and developing the skill of empathy. They set aside their cool, aloof adolescent attitudes to respond with respect and interest. "Do you always bring it to school?" someone asked.

"No. Never. But I’m sleeping over at my cousin’s house tonight," Brian revealed.

"What color was it originally?"

"Dark blue," Brian said. "My favorite color when I was four—I think. Does anyone else have a comfort thing?" he continued. For the next several weeks, the students eagerly shared teddy bears, blankets, dolls, and other tokens that were still loved and needed as they made their passage from childhood to adulthood.

"CPR offers another way to be"

More than ever in their lives students this age need a predictable routine that helps them trust each other and value learning. "CPR offers an alternative to the dog-eat-dog world that many kids live in," a middle school teacher said. "CPR offers them another way to be." Beginning the day with CPR at least three times a week is an important step towards making school a safe and productive place for learning.

But CPR goes further than simply setting the stage for good learning. All of the components of CPR lend themselves to the introduction or reinforcement of academic skills. Through Greeting, Sharing, Group Activity, and News and Announcements, middle school students learn how to think critically, how to frame and ask good questions, how to solve problems, how to work cooperatively, and how to turn their need for peer connection into a positive and dynamic learning strategy. CPR makes sense for middle school students.

The Morning Meeting Book

File 1110

. . . is one of NEFC's most popular books. Comprehensive and user-friendly, it has helped thousands of elementary school teachers begin their school days with Morning Meeting. Now, we have expanded The Morning Meeting Book to include:

  • A new chapter, "Circle of Power and Respect (CPR): Morning Meeting in the Middle Schools" written by Lynn Bechtel
  • A new appendix, "Morning Meeting with Second Language Learners" written by Bonnie Baer-Simahk
  • Eleven additional greetings and twenty-four additional group activities