The new leaders at Wampus Elementary School have created an important event for students and faculty: the community meeting.
Starting the first week of school, Principal Peggy McInerney and Assistant Principal David Mack began holding weekly meetings aimed at building a strong Wampus community, one that is a safe and trusting learning environment where students are always kind to one another.
“The meetings help foster a sense of community for our children,” Ms. McInerney says. “We slow everything down and bring the children together. They learn that they need to be there for one another and that as a community, we’re here to bring each other up.”
During the assemblies, Ms. McInerney may read a story or show video clips infused with a meaningful lesson, and present a conversation starter for teachers to continue in the classroom and for students to discuss at home.
The meetings are a great way for teachers, students and staff to get to know everyone in the building while bonding around a common purpose.
“The building stops for those 20 minutes and we are all together focusing on our community,” Ms. McInerney said. “A strong school community feels warm, welcoming, safe, calm, happy – that’s my goal.”
Every week, the leaders meet with a single grade on Thursday morning, and on the fourth week of the month, they hold a schoolwide assembly in the cafeteria on Friday afternoon. The meetings are always focused on “the high expectations for how we treat one another,” Ms. McInerney said.
The grade-level meetings will share a theme each month, and will be tailored to each set of students depending on the feedback Ms. McInerney and Mr. Mack have received regarding that grade.
In September Ms. McInerney read “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” a book about kindness. During the schoolwide meeting in early October, she read “We’re All Wonders” and showed two video clips from the hit movie “Wonder” that drew applause from the students.
The clips from “Wonder” were a treat for the students, Ms. McInerney told them, “because you have been so wonderful the last month. You keep getting better.”
Mr. Mack says the gatherings have been a good way for him to get to know the students and teachers while focusing on the importance of creating a kind school community.
“I’ve found that the community meetings have been a great opportunity to all come together and discuss real-life topics such as kindness, learning from our mistakes and how to contribute to the wonderful educational community at Wampus,” he said.
The meetings allow school leaders to praise excellent behavior, instilling confidence in students for their hard work and effort. The format provides opportunities for social and emotional learning.
“The community meetings are just one aspect of how we focus on educating the whole child, which includes social, emotional and academic growth,” Ms. McInerney says.
“These meetings are designed to foster interpersonal relationships that are grounded in safety, trust and responsiveness to one another,” she added. “They allow us to work together to understand the challenges we experience, and to develop problem-solving mechanisms. These meetings provide positive emotional expectations for everyone, and they help us see how our differences shape our culture.”
“Our goal is to ensure that our children leave Wampus with more confidence than when they entered, and gain a stronger sense of how important it is to be kind so that our community is a great place for everyone.”
Fourth grader Arun Das said he finds the meetings educational, and he appreciates that the principals are taking time to meet with the students.
“That’s really nice that they can do these schoolwide meetings, and I think that they should keep doing it because it kind of brings us more together,” Arun said. “I learn more about how to be better in school and what not to do and what more to do. Also, it feels good to get more compliments” like when “Ms. McInerney or Mr. Mack says good things about classes, grades or our school.”
Another fourth grader, Sofia Malinas, has been learning through the assemblies as well. “The meetings are helping me be a good learner and to follow the rules to make sure you’re safe, responsible and respectful,” she said.