A Compassionate Council 

Each Friday in Upper Elementary, students and teachers come together for the weekly Council Meeting. This is an opportunity for students to use their voices to promote a harmonious and productive classroom community. The adults purposefully take a back seat, as the students thoughtfully discuss matters that are important to them.  

Every child has the opportunity to become the Chair of a meeting, starting with the older students at the beginning of the year. Before each meeting commences, students are given reflection time, during which they prepare notes about what they wish to discuss. The meeting is divided into regular agenda items, with minutes being taken by a different student each week. The agenda includes: 

  • Things that make me smile 
  • Thank yous 
  • Compliments 
  • Reminders 
  • Issues 
  • Apologies and Solutions 
  • Business 

Whilst each part of the Council meeting allows students to cultivate different skills, it is the ‘Compliments’ and ‘Thank Yous’ sections which really make the heart sing. Often the busiest agenda items, we see many sincere contributions each week. Compliments range from one student commending another peer who has worked hard that week, to an individual who is acknowledged for keeping the classroom tidy. A compliment may be extended to a group of students for a well-researched presentation, or to an individual who has shown kindness and support to others. There is always an abundance of goodwill and mutual respect on display.  

Likewise, ‘Thank Yous’ are given to other students for offering support with challenging math tasks, the sharing of knowledge or explanations of procedures. Acknowledgements are given for conversation and companionship during lunch and appreciation is expressed for friendship and support. It is an uplifting end to the school week, and inspiring to see young people lifting each other up with kind words and generosity of spirit.  

Perhaps the most profound moments come when students acknowledge their own mistakes and make apologies to one other. Deepening skills in self-reflection and building strength of character, students often grow from the experience of apologizing; in the eyes of their peers and in their own self-esteem. The students have to dig deep to understand the point of view of the other person, showing empathy and compassion for others in a safe environment where people respect each other. Together, we learn to accept that we all make mistakes and that it’s what we do next that is important. 

For many of the students and the adults alike, Council Meetings are one of the highlights of the week, a safe haven and a place to get your voice heard. It is an excellent way to reflect on the week that was whilst building a community of empathy, care and compassion. 

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