Responsive Classroom Teacher Language Study Groups
by Michelle Andrade
Throughout the school year, teachers will meet and work through small, digestible, doable skills in small groups based on shared Responsive Classroom goals. Sitting in a cozy circle, much like students experience in Morning Meeting and Harkness discussions, faculty have the opportunity to be seen and heard, as well as ask questions and share successes. The therapeutic nature of such an environment leaves teachers empowered to go back to their classrooms invigorated and with new ideas to try.
Ensworth has been practicing Responsive Classroom (RC) for more than four years, although some teachers have been using the tools for much longer. This approach engages students by offering direct instruction and practice in what is called “social, emotional, and academic competencies.” Such attributes include cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, self-control, academic mindset, perseverance, learning strategies, and academic behaviors. At Ensworth, 22 Lower School teachers have completed the four-day initial training in RC, and this year, one High School teacher has joined the ranks.
This past summer, Ensworth hosted 46 participants for both Elementary and Middle School Responsive Classroom Institutes. This professional development engaged teachers in the methodology and practices of the approach and offered them a chance to gather with their peers to discuss furthering their own skills to take back to their respective schools. Ensworth teachers had the opportunity to choose an area of focus where they would like to see themselves grow in the coming year.
Megan Florentine has been leading the RC charge at Ensworth since 2009. She is also a Consulting Teacher for Responsive Classroom and visits schools around the country to offer them training. Her passion, knowledge, and leadership style afford Ensworth faculty the chance to continue their growth, have accountability and resources, and meet regularly to make progress toward their goals from work begun in Lower School faculty meetings during the 2021-2022 school year. Megan split the Lower School teachers into seven small groups, meeting quarterly to hone in on their areas of focus. Areas include reinforcing language, reminding language, redirecting language, and interactive modeling. In addition to these small groups, the whole Lower School faculty has a session on Responsive Classroom practices at each monthly faculty meeting.
For all Responsive Classroom professional development at Ensworth, the meeting structure is intentional and involves extensive planning to offer teachers coverage and time to work on these skills. For the small groups, six to eight Lower School teachers come together for a 45-minute meeting each quarter before the school day starts. These meetings offer teachers an opportunity to share questions and challenges, celebrate their success, and reinforce Responsive Classroom teaching skills. “It helps to have the small group,” one teacher shares. “It makes you feel good [about what we are doing].”