Lawrence Community Meeting

Lawrence Community Meeting

Lawrence Community Meeting is a gathering of the K-5 school community held approximately once every 3 weeks.   This past Friday, we held our first “regular” Community Meeting following our Olweus kick-off event on October 17.

The primary purpose of Community Meeting is to maintain a sense of community.  Children, staff and parents develop a feeling of connectedness to the rest of the school.  Community Meeting also provides a forum for celebrating learning in the school as students or classes share.   Children learn how to be a respectful audience – listening and demonstrating appreciation in appropriate ways.  Community Meeting provides opportunities for students to build self-confidence and public speaking skills.  Finally, it provides a time to acknowledge and celebrate different cultures and special days and to have some fun.

We gather in the gym, sitting in a “U’ shape facing one side.  Fifth graders serve as “hosts” for community meeting. They are in charge – giving the signal for quiet and introducing and thanking the various people who contribute or share. A series of short “sharings” follow.   Students may initiate signing up to share with a form in the office. I meet with students to approve their idea and check that they are ready.  Typical sharings might include:  reciting a poem, telling a riddle, sharing an aspect of a culture or holiday, or playing an instrument.   Teachers and specialists also arrange sharings by small groups or whole classes.  These typically focus on projects or work done in the classroom or are related to a special day.    There is no required schedule for class sharing. We want it to grow naturally out of what is happening in the school. Teachers will occasionally do a surprise share of their own.

Comments from the principal and vice principal are a regular feature at the end of community meeting. This time can be used to recognize or welcome members of our school community.  It is also a time to raise issues and remind students about school-wide expectations.

Some community meetings focus on a theme.   Our Olweus bullying prevention kick-off is one example. Martin Luther King Day is another. Our annual “Jump Rope for Heart” is especially popular as students delight in showing off their skills and seeing their teachers do the same.  At least twice a year (usually for Earth Day and Memorial Day), we hold school-wide (K-8) community meeting outdoors.

Community Meeting was delayed starting this year while we waited for the reopening of a third emergency exit from the gym during construction.   What struck me during our first community meeting was how well established and powerful the culture of sharing and community has become.  Examples include:

  • Celebrating Lawrence School with student-written poems and a song.
  • Watching the entire group wait in patient, supportive silence while one student, who lost her place in her book, found the right poem.
  • Sensing the hush of intent listening as two first grades softly sang their song.
  • Seeing the joy and pride in the faces of a Kindergarten class (and their parents) taking the risk to sing two autumn songs in front of the whole school so early in the year.
  • Hearing the poignant stories behind how three students got their names.

These are the moments that strengthen our community and our sense of belonging – and lift our collective spirit.

Rick Rogers

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