Every day before snack and lunch, all classes engage in quiet reflection time. Usually, the topic for reflection has to do with the specific Quaker idea we have discussing during community meeting on Monday mornings, such as peace, integrity, community, etc. Sometimes, the reflection is more tailored to issues or topics that have come up in our classroom. Reflection time is always lead by the teacher – I pose a question and students respond. I have recently been releasing responsibility to the students, by allowing them to discuss in a circle with each other, rather than raising their hands and being called on by the teacher. I have been impressed with their ability to navigate this dynamic; students wait for another person to finish talking, they allow those to share who haven’t yet had a turn, and they listen to each other respectfully.


Yesterday, as students were washing their hands for snack and returning to the classroom, there was a problem between two students in the hallway. I went out into the hall and spoke with the two students for about five minutes, helping them talk through what happened and resolve their conflict. When I came back, the rest of the class informed me that they had already had reflection without me! When I asked them what it was about, one student said he had posed the question to the class, “When do you feel peaceful?” I asked students what they shared, and they repeated to me some of the things they discussed.


I was so proud of the class for taking it upon themselves to have their reflection before eating. I told them that that was mature, independent, and responsible of them. I applauded the question they chose, the answers they gave, and the cooperative way that they had a class discussion without it being facilitated by the teacher. When students internalize routines, expectations, procedures, and academic content — and can move forward with them without the aid of the teacher — I know I’ve done my job!

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Melanie Berlin

is a classroom teacher on the K-2 team. Before moving to Chicago, Melanie lived in Philadelphia and worked for five years as lead kindergarten teacher at Mastery Charter Mann Elementary School. Previous to that, Melanie lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and taught at an independent school in Oakland, California. Melanie has her B.A. in psychology with a minor in urban education from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her teaching degree from San Francisco State University with a focus on social justice in education.

In her free time, Melanie loves playing ultimate Frisbee, drinking coffee, playing board games, and spending time with her husband and baby daughter.

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