At the end of the day we have a closing circle in my classroom. It is intended to give the children and me a moment of quiet and reflection at the end of the day in the same way that morning meeting energizes us to spend the day learning and playing together. Depending on how much time we have for closing circle – I find that 5 – 7 minutes is just right – we may do a quick check in about our day by putting our thumbs up for an excellent day or thumbs sideways for a good or OK day. If we are not rushed then I will may ask the kids to answer the following question: what will you share about your day with your families tonight? Lately, we’ve been doing appreciations or thank you’s. The only provisos are that you appreciate someone who is present in the room, that you start your appreciation by saying, “(Child’s name), I appreciate you for…”, and that you look that person in the eyes as you speak to them.
I’ve noticed that the children’s comments have been limited to appreciating their friends for playing with them at recess. As a start this was OK but I remind them to notice what others do during the day that merits an appreciation. The day I mentioned this there was a flurry of appreciations related to other than recess play but that didn’t go any further than that moment. I have tried to remember to talk about this at morning meeting but I haven’t been successful. I will be writing this down on my first day plan back to school in January.
Our last closing circle before the winter holidays reminded me to remain vigilant of everything that we do in the classroom for how it affects the children, either positively or negatively. Here’s what happened: one little girl appreciated a classmate for playing with her and the child being appreciated breathed a big sigh of relief and said, “Finally! Someone’s appreciating me!” My heart sank at the same moment that I recognized a teaching opportunity and before the next child could hurry in to get his appreciation, I said: “OK. Let’s stop for a moment, here. Susan (not the child’s real name), how did it feel to be appreciated?” She said, “Good.” Not a very deep response but nevertheless it gets at the core of how it feels for others to show their appreciation for us: it feels good. I then reminded the children to notice others’ actions during the school day and to remember to appreciate those children during closing circle. It always amazes me how just when you think they haven’t noticed or don’t seem to care they really do.
I will help the children make a list of things that others do that merit an appreciation, either publicly or privately, and point these out when I notice them in the classroom. Hopefully, their appreciations will become more genuine over time. Just like math and reading, social interactions need to be modelled and taught.
On a last note…a few days one one of my more challenging students went up to a parent who had given a presentation on her work to our class that morning, and said: “I want to give you an appreciation. I appreciate you for coming to our class and teaching us about the operating room.”
Such are the melodious moments of teaching.