The Responsive Classroom: "Why Is Everyone So Nice Here?"

In the fall of 2007, a new fifth-grade student arrived at Symonds Elementary School. His demeanor was reserved, and his attitude about attending a new school was skeptical. For this 11-year-old, life started in an orphanage, and many of his learning, social, and emotional challenges stemmed from this deprived early experience. Maintaining positive relationships with peers and adults was difficult.
Like all of the other Symonds’ students, he began his days with a morning meeting, worked with teacher support in large and small groups, experienced academic choice, lived by rules and consequences, attended art, music, physical education, and media classes, and became a part of the Symonds community. One day, he was walking up the stairs to his classroom with his teacher and asked, “Why is everyone so nice here?” She answered, “Who we learn with is as important as what we learn. It’s important to show that we care about each other.
Guiding Principles and Teaching Practices
Symonds Elementary has been using the Responsive Classroom approach for 25 years. It’s the foundation of our learning community. Our long-term use of Responsive Classroom comes from the shared belief that social curriculum is equal in significance to academic curriculum. The Northeast Foundation for Children, Inc. promotes the Responsive Classroom’s fundamental principles and practices, and Symonds follows the seven Guiding Principles:
The social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.
How children learn is as important as what they learn.
The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
There is a specific set …