Research shows that resilience, self-regulation and healthy relationships have the power to insulate children against adversity and help them to better handle life’s ups and downs. Taking this into consideration, teachers throughout the district are focused on building trust and relationships through community circles.
In Christine Smelt’s fourth-grade class at Florence Brasser Elementary School the focus of the circles changes daily, but the meetings follow a similar format. Students make a circle around the perimeter of the room and go around the circle sharing anything on their minds. Often, it’s upcoming life events, how they are feeling or important accomplishments. The second go-around is a more directed share such as, “what do you do when you feel stressed?”
“It is amazing how quickly some students have opened right up to share things that are bothering them or things they are proud of,” Smelt said. “Through these circles, they are learning how to be confident and how to be an active listener when someone else is speaking.”
At the kindergarten level, circles look very similar and often begin with a simple prompt. In Katie Reinhardt’s class at Walt Disney Elementary School, students also focus on body language and eye contact. The endresult is that creative ideas are valued, and concerns are addressed all before 9:40 a.m.
“Often, I have a child take over leading the circle and I become just a participant,” Reinhardt said. “They pop into the leadership role, pointing to or calling on children by name and asking follow up questions. During these uncertain times, community circles give them a chance for their voices to be heard.”
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