“How does that make you feel?”

I’m new to the Responsive Classroom approach, but even in my first year of having Morning Meetings, the children’s social growth exceeded what I had typically seen in my kindergarten classes. For example, during the Sharing part of Morning Meeting, the students learned appropriate ways to ask questions about each other’s news. When one child shared about a Friday night out for pizza with her family, other children were able to focus on the sharer, her news, and her feelings. One classmate asked, “Did you feel grown up when they let you order?” Another commented, “You sound like you had a really good time.” As the year went on, these empathetic responses began to replace the more typical five- and six-year-old “Me, too!” responses, such as “I’ve been to that restaurant!” or “I like to eat pizza, too!”

Even better, the empathetic skills learned in Morning Meeting began to spread throughout the day. I realized the ripple effect when one child bumped his leg sharply on a chair. As he rubbed his hurt leg, another boy leaned in and asked him, “How does that make you feel?” in a genuine, caring tone of voice.

I know how it made me feel: happy, proud, and aware that I’m doing something right for my students. The language might have focused a bit more on the feelings the child was expressing—“You look like that really hurt!”—but this young child, I thought, clearly understands what empathy is and when to express it. I felt certain that he would fine-tune his language as he continued experiencing and expressing empathy during Morning Meeting.

Just realizing that Morning Meeting is making such an impact on these young children brought tears to my eyes. I’m convinced that Morning Meeting will forever be a part of the daily routine in my classroom.

Tara Farrell teaches at Adams Friendship Elementary School in Friendship, Wisconsin.

Tags: Building Classroom Community