Faculty Prep for Opening Day with 'Responsive Classroom' Workshop

While Shore's late-August campus may look relatively quiet from the outside—the calm before the "storm" of students and parents arrives for Opening Day on September 6—inside the Dining Hall and throughout the Lower School, faculty members are hard at work in an intensive, four-day workshop on the "Responsive Classroom," a student-centered model of teaching practice that emphasizes the link between academic success and social-emotional learning.

The Responsive Classroom approach was developed at the Center for Responsive Schools, a non-profit organization based in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. Originated by teachers, the methodology consists of practical strategies for helping students build academic and social-emotional competencies day in and day out. Responsive Classroom practices and principles are built around the core belief that in order to be successful in and out of school, students need to learn a set of social and emotional competencies—cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self control—and a set of academic competencies—academic mindset, perseverance, learning strategies, and academic behaviors—that together allow students to do their best work, and be their best selves. 

According to the Executive Director for the Center for Responsive Schools, Dr. Lora Hodges, the evidence-based model is backed by research that shows a clear correlation with higher academic achievement in math and reading, improved school climate, and higher-quality instruction.

At Shore, says Head of Lower School Sara Knox, the potential benefits of the Responsive Classroom model are just as clear. "Much of what we do in our elementary classrooms already looks like Responsive Classroom practice," she explains. "The idea that social and emotional learning and growth are crucial for academic success is central to our philosophy." Still, Knox says, formally implementing the Responsive Classroom approach through the summer workshop and ongoing training will help ensure "what we're doing is consistent from classroom to classroom and grade to grade. It will give us a common, evidence-based set of understandings and language to talk about our teaching with each other and with families."

Indeed, in the Responsive Classroom approach, partnering with families is as important as knowing the children in the classroom. So it's no surprise that improved communication with families is a major goal of Shore's implementation of the model. "This fall," says Knox, "we'll be inviting parents to learn more about both our existing and our new and improved classroom practices through open discussions on campus. We're tremendously excited to share what we've been working on and to partner even more closely with parents."

Shore's Responsive Classroom implementation won't end at Grade 5: middle school teachers—who, like their Lower School colleagues, already incorporate many elements of the model into their classroom practice—will formally adopt the methodology for the 2018-2019 school year. 

"But for now," says Knox, "we'll be focusing on Pre-K through Grade 5, and we'll be sharing much more information about Responsive Classroom throughout the fall."

    • SAIL teacher Betsey Holland workshopped with colleagues in the Dining Hall.

    • Librarian Deborah Collison and fifth grade teacher David Lund listened to first grade teacher Mary Kinahan.

    • New phys-ed teacher Mike Pannozzi sat with veteran reading specialist Rondi Kilham.

    • Second grade teaching assistant Lauren Bukkhegyi took notes.