Circle of Power and Respect meetings are a brand-new endeavor for the eighth-grade teachers and 150 eighth-grade students in my school. Meetings are held every other day for approximately 25 minutes. We teachers have helped each other plan and reflect about the meetings throughout the year.

I have greatly enjoyed CPR meetings with my eighth-grade group. The best thing about it for me is getting to know my students better. I like the deeper rapport I’ve built with my students, the personal stories shared, and the fun of the games. CPR reminds me of a time in college when, for part of my sophomore year in Chicago, I participated in a small discussion group that met each week with one of the advisors. We talked about anything, not just academics. Quickly, a sense of community was established, and that’s happening here, too.

Early feedback
Students are experiencing and recognizing CPR’s benefits, too. I carried on many informal conversations with my group regarding our progress. After a few CPR meetings in September, I wanted to get student feedback, so we assessed. One student indicated he did not like CPR meetings and felt they were babyish. Three others agreed with him in general but were not willing to go as far. Other negative bits of feedback included a complaint about being bored during the meetings and a lack of control of some of the students. All the other students were positive about CPR at that early point in the year.

Over time, the feedback has become increasing positive. Several students have mentioned the following benefits of CPR:

Gaining new friends
Having fun
Getting to know more people
Becoming closer
Having a break from school stress
Sharing things about yourself
Talking to friends better
Gaining confidence
Gaining your own voice
Learning better group skills

Full participation
One student fell in love with CPR on the very first day of school. She has championed the cause ever since. I have another student who is very good at making suggestions for improvement. A third student just naturally wants to make sure everyone is included, including me. Even the early critic of CPR meetings participates wholeheartedly and is respectful toward all. Many others don’t stand out as much, yet they enjoy the meetings and participate appropriately. The meetings give students a chance to shine and develop skills in areas not offered in regular classes. How would I have even known about any of these character traits if not for the meetings?

Why not high school?
Some of my former students returned to visit the other day, including my daughter, who is in high school. The conversation turned to our new CPR meetings. My daughter said, “I wish we could do that in high school. It’s what we loved about elementary school, what made it fun. Meeting each morning for news and sharing built a whole sense of community. You don’t get that in high school.”

I’m excited to improve the meetings. I want to get into more serious topics for discussion during sharing, play higher-risk and more complicated games, and get the eighth graders to take charge of leading the groups more.

Linda Collette teaches 8th graders at Turkey Hill Middle School in Lunenburg, Massachusetts.

Published Spring 2011