October 6, 2022

A Letter from Guest Writer Seth Dempsey, Grade One Teacher

Dear Harbor Families,

I remember when I encountered my first Morning Meeting back when I was a student teacher. It wasn’t a process that won me over at first sight. I was curious why the class would spend time (a fleeting and valuable resource in school) on greetings, shares, and games when it could be used in countless other potentially more productive ways. However, I didn’t remain a skeptic for very long, as my mentor teacher had plans for me to take over running our classroom's morning meeting before other parts of the school day. 

In the first week that I facilitated morning meetings (and my first foray into really being in the spotlight as “the teacher”), I made some small missteps that had my face turning darker shades of red from embarrassment. But soon, it became apparent that this approach was incredibly valuable to the students’ learning. As a teacher engaging with the Responsive Classroom approach, including components like Morning Meeting, I have come to see it as a boon that is foundational in the creation of an environment that is most conducive to learning as well as a space for practicing both social and academic skills. 

Underpinning Responsive Classroom and the Morning Meeting at Harbor are the beliefs that knowing the children we teach is as important as knowing the content we teach, how children learn is as important as what they learn, and that great cognitive growth happens through social interaction. We aim to teach not only our academic curriculum but also to cultivate an incredibly valuable set of social skills like cooperation, empathy, self-control, responsibility, and assertion. The framework allows these social skills to be practiced as they develop new ways of being able to respect others and themselves. Other skills that are modeled, learned, and practiced through Morning Meeting are: risking taking, choice making, problem solving, and active participation. 

The morning meeting is not just about games and greetings, but is an entry into community. It allows everyone access as well a place in the circle. During morning meetings everyone belongs, and everyone is given the time, space, and opportunity to grow and bloom into their identity. With it we set a tone for the day’s learning and allow students to experience consistency and routine, as well as how to be flexible when bumps in the road inevitably occur. Before too long our students learn exactly what to expect from their teachers and their peers as we move through our Morning Meetings and daily learning, and can apply the social skills in other settings as well. 

When we open our classrooms tomorrow, we expect that you’ll be able to see many smiling faces ready to share with you the routines and expectations that each teacher has put into place over the course of these past weeks. There will be joy to be found in students sharing insights from their experiences, communicating their thoughts, feelings, and opinions, and interacting with one another in simple but profoundly important ways. We are looking forward to sharing this experience with you!


Seth Dempsey
First Grade Teacher
The Harbor School

Harbor School