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@ The Center for Arts and Learning

46 Barre Street
Montpelier, VT 05602
Phone: 802-223-4700
riverrockschool@comcast.net

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Council Meetings

At River Rock School when a problem arises, and the usual channels to resolve it have been unsuccessful, a Council Meeting is called. Council Meetings are a simple yet elegant approach to resolve conflict, address annoying behaviors or change community rules. They are an education in parliamentary procedure, democracy in action, and learning about emotions and social relationships.

When a Council Meeting is called, the entire community must stop what they are doing and gather together. Robert's Rules of Order are used: the Chairperson oversees the process of voting for a moderator; the moderator then opens by asking, "Who called this meeting?" and "Why did you call this meeting?" Once this is explained, the moderator decides how to proceed.

If there has been a violation of the "Stop Rule," for example, the moderator asks the violator why they didn't stop when asked. "I don't know" is not an acceptable answer. The person is required to "dig down deeper" to try to understand why they didn't stop.

If the situation is more complex and involves a number of people, or involves a rule someone wants changed, the moderator deals with it accordingly. People raise their hands to speak, and the moderator calls on people as she or he sees fit. Motions are sometimes made during the discussion. If they are seconded, discussion follows, and eventually someone "calls the question”," which means the motion must be voted on. Everyone has an equal vote, adults and children alike. Usually during the course of the meeting someone asks the person who called it what they need in order to feel that the issue has been resolved. Sometimes the person asks for an apology. Sometimes they make a motion to change a rule. In order to end the meeting, a motion is made to adjourn, seconded, and then voted on. Sometimes the motion carries and sometimes not. If not, the meeting continues. If a meeting is adjourned before there is a satisfactory resolution, the issue usually comes up again in the future, and eventually it is worked through.

All community members participate equally in Council Meetings; a 6 year old's opinion or remarks are listened to with the same seriousness and respect as those of a 12 year old or a 54 year old; teachers' opinions and desires don't always prevail.

Council Meetings create a sense of empowerment and hope. Every member of the community knows they have a way to hold others accountable for their actions. They never feel like they are being bullied, taken advantage of or disrespected. They have the support of the school community in upholding the standards we hold dear: mutual respect and kindness.

Council Meetings have brought about so much:

  • The children are happier, more harmonious and more productive
  • Relationships have developed and deepened
  • Children have learned about emotions and developed sensitivity to others
  • Knowledge of group functioning and parliamentary procedure has blossomed
  • An atmosphere of self-understanding and tolerance has deepened
  • All voices and feelings are expressed, respected, and accepted
  • Judgment is deferred, help is offered, solutions are brainstormed

In 30 years of teaching, Council Meetings stand out as one of the singular most powerfully positive educational experiences our teachers have participated in.