Class meetings as a thoughtful approach to guiding principles - Aspen Country Day School


Class meetings as a thoughtful approach to guiding principles

May 12, 2023

Lower School Counselor Mary Stokes encourages classmates to recognize kindness in others while also reconciling more complicated feelings

Something routine yet remarkable happens once a week in every Aspen Country Day School homeroom from Kindergarten through Fifth Grade. It’s called a class meeting, and it’s a key part of the school’s social-emotional learning curriculum. Behind this long-standing program is ACDS Lower School Counselor Mary Stokes, who believes class meetings are all about “personal and interpersonal development.”

Mary begins each class meeting with a mindful moment for students to center themselves and be present in the moment. Then, she provides an opportunity for the students to share. It could be anything from a friendship issue they want to work out to processing something that happened to them. Mary has seen how this block of time builds confidence and deepens empathy, with students expressing gratitude towards their peers or advocating for one another.

“Mary helps us show our emotions,” said Third Grader Sandy W. “She’s very caring and helps us in a kind way.”

Another goal of class meetings is to develop the students’ communication skills. Mary guides them in using descriptive words to express their thoughts and feelings about their relationships with others. It’s not enough to just say, “she’s nice;” they learn to illustrate with words by using specific examples of how someone has been kind or supportive, which also helps them be articulate in a more meaningful way.

In addition to building communication skills, class meetings also tie in with the school’s monthly themes and core values. Mary incorporates activities that connect to the guiding principles of ACDS: cooperation, gratitude, character, respect, responsibility, community, and perseverance. For example, during a class meeting in September, the focus may be on cooperation, while in November, the students may discuss gratitude. This encourage students to thoughtfully apply these standards their daily lives.

Even the youngest students at Aspen Country Day School — the PreKindergarten students — get to experience class meetings. Mary introduces them to the format to broaden their understanding of friendship and building positive relationships with others, in line with the school’s motto of “de amicitia,” which means “in the spirit of friendship.”

Class meeting provides a space for reflection, and revelation, helping students become more self-aware and emotionally intelligent individuals. “I get to witness some incredible self-discovery and moments of revelation,” Mary said. “Each child has his or her own moral compass, and they really are immersed in these years of growing and changing.”

At Aspen Country Day School, class meetings are not just another activity on the schedule. It’s a valuable and intentional part of the journey that fosters personal and interpersonal development so students row into compassionate, empathetic, and resilient individuals who are well-equipped to navigate the complexities of life beyond the classroom.