The Power of Class Meetings

“There is a great sense of community within the Montessori classroom, where children of differing ages work together in an atmosphere of cooperation rather than competitiveness. There is respect for the environment and for the individuals within it, which comes through experience of freedom within the community.” (Montessori, 1986).

     A teacher recently commented, “I don’t know how I ever managed a classroom before the Class Meeting.”  I had the same experience, myself.  I have long advocated that it is impossible, long-term, to manage a classroom by ourselves, without the support of the children.  It takes the entire community.  Most teachers who begin using formal Class Meetings find it’s one of the most powerful tools they have for developing a sense of community and responsibility.  Just this week after a Class Meeting workshop, a school leader asked, “Have you ever run staff meetings this way?”  My response was, “As a matter of fact, yes I did!”

     Democratic leadership is the ideal in a Montessori classroom and school community.  Democratic leadership is simply inclusive leadership.  It values and relies upon the input and participation of the community to make decisions and to evaluate and implement those decisions. The purpose of the Class Meeting is to provide an effective structure for creating a democratic environment. Students and teachers work together to solve problems, encourage one another, and build a deep sense of belonging and significance.  Here are some of the most important benefits you can expect when you start using the Class Meeting process:

  1. Builds a sense of community and connection.

When a class comes together to help one another they naturally develop social interest and ownership.  Their sense of connection to one another grows, and concern for one another becomes the culture of the classroom.

  1. Builds cooperation and “buy-in”.

Because the students are involved in the decision-making process, their buy-in with solutions is much higher than if an adult solves a problem and then rolls out their solutions to the class.  Put simply, participation = cooperation.

  1. Shares responsibility for solving problems and managing the classroom.

Imagine the relief of not having to solve all the problems in the classroom by yourself.  If there are 24 children in the classroom, and two adults, then there are 26 capable problem-solvers, each with different perspectives on the issues facing the classroom.  In addition, when children participate in problem solving, they also naturally participate in following through with the solutions they helped to create. 

  1. Provides insight that a teacher might never get, even through careful observation.

Have you ever had a parent come and tell you about an issue or social dynamic that was happening in your classroom that you were unaware of?  It can be a little embarrassing.  This becomes more common with older children, as they share less with adults and more with their peers.  The Class Meeting provides a time, place and process that facilitates open communication, and a safe environment to share openly about what students are struggling with, academically and socially.  Elementary and adolescent students begin to trust the class meeting process as they experience that no one gets in trouble; that the focus is on solutions, not blame.  When this trust is developed, teachers become the first adults to hear about problems, and they are the ones to bring the information to the parents (as appropriate); but not just information and problems, but solutions!

  1. Builds empathy.

During the Class Meeting children have the opportunity to hear the struggles and perspectives of other students.  They learn that they are not alone in their problems.  Students learn that not everyone sees things the same way, and not everyone feels the same way about what they experience.  They also learn how people’s actions affect one another, positively and negatively.  Open and honest communication opens a window into each other’s hearts, and a desire to help. 

  1. Builds communication skills.

In the Class Meeting, students learn to communicate in ways that promote others to listen to them.  They also learn about non-verbal communication, how to speak honestly, directly and respectfully to one another in a group setting.  Students also practice listening skills, and how to truly hear someone else’s perspective.  Because no one gets in trouble during a Class Meeting, students learn to focus on solutions rather than blame, and lean to communicate and work from a win-win perspective.

  1. Builds problem solving skills.

It’s so easy to say, “We help children develop problem-solving skills.”  This type of statement is used in school marketing material all the time.  But, how do we achieve this ideal?  The Class Meeting provides a prepared environment to do just that.  Children learn to ask for help in a constructive way and receive problem-solving help from their peers and teachers.  As well, even children who simply observe the Class Meeting process, learn valuable problem-solving skills from the solving of others’ problems.

  1. Creates an environment where it’s safe to take personal responsibility.

When the classroom culture is focused solutions, and not blame, students naturally begin to take responsibility for their part in problems, which makes problems much easier to solve.  It’s nearly impossible to solve problems if those involved deny responsibility.  Without a common understanding, as to what caused the problem in the first place, how can we find solutions that will be effective and address the root of the problem? 

One of my favorite stories about taking responsibility in the Class Meeting happened in one of my first elementary classes.  Mabel expressed that she was feeling hurt because she had been getting teased on the playground.  When it was time for the rest of the class to discuss the problem, the three students who had been doing the teasing each shared that they were the ones who teased Mabel, and they followed that with an apology.  They saw how hurt she was. Mabel also opened up and took responsibility.  She admitted that she had been excluding the three girls while outside, individually, when she wanted to spend more time with one or two of the others.  The classroom community all participated in the problem-solving process, but because the children were all honest with their part in the problem, the solution was self-evident.  The three girls stopped teasing Mabel, and Mabel chose to include each of the girls when she played outside.

The students were able to take responsibility, because it was a safe place to do that.  They all had experience with the class meeting process, and trusted that they would not get in trouble when they made social mistakes.  This doesn’t happen overnight, but it is a powerful experience to watch children take responsibility in a non-punitive environment and truly solve their problems.”

  1. Develops an environment where mistakes are an opportunity to learn.

At each meeting, prior to talking about the agenda item(s), the class reviews past problems to see if the solution that was chosen is working.  If the chosen solution isn’t working, then the person with the problem, or the class, can choose a different solution or they can start over.  In this way, the community can evaluate what worked, and what didn’t, and why; and mistakes become opportunities to learn.  

In an environment where mistakes are seen (and experienced) as an opportunity to learn, there is an atmosphere of creativity, partnership, concern for the common good.  The pressure to be perfect is off, and the freedom to help one another in a cooperative atmosphere becomes the driving force of the community.

  1. Provides a natural Positive Time-Out

When children put a topic on the Class Meeting agenda, they can feel secure that their problem will be addressed, that they will be listened to, and that they will receive support from their class.  Problems that are placed on the meeting agenda are generally not discussed the day they are put on the agenda in order to provide a natural cooling off period.  Sometimes, just writing the problem down and knowing that it will be addressed is enough to help a child cool down and regain the ability to self-regulate and solve their problem independently.  In those instances, when the problem comes up at the Class Meeting,  the child will often say, “I solved that problem myself.”  Success!   

  1. Develops leadership and teaches children how to lead.

One of the greatest challenges Montessori teachers face is developing leadership in their 3rd year students. Each year there is a different dynamic.  Sometimes a group of 3rd year students just seem to be weak leaders.  They don’t set a good example, or just may be passive.  Other times a group of 3rd year students might become negative leaders, sending the rest of the class into turmoil and misbehavior.  Sometimes you’re lucky enough to have a naturally strong group of 3rd year leaders, and those years are incredible. 

One exasperated teacher shared, “I thought if I gave lessons well and prepared the environment well that the third-year students would naturally become leaders and help the younger students.  It sounded so good in training.  But I often find myself lecturing my oldest students to, ‘Be a good leader,’ or to ‘Set a good example.’  It’s discouraging, because they certainly set examples, just the wrong ones.”

Most Montessori teachers hope that the prepared environment and the 3-year age grouping will naturally develop the older students into leaders.  However, this doesn’t always happen because leadership skills, are like other social skills, they are learned.  When the Class Meeting is part of the culture of the classroom, children have the time, structure, and training to developing leadership skills over the 3-year cycle. 

For more information on Class Meetings visit my website for articles and workshops.

Until next time…


Nelsen, J., DeLorenzo, C. (2021). Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom: Preparing an Environment That Fosters Respect, Kindness and Responsibility. United States: Parent Child Press, Incorporated.

Hainstock, E. G. (1986). The essential Montessori. New York: New American Librarys

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About the Author

Picture of Chip DeLorenzo

Chip DeLorenzo

An experienced Montessori Educator who has served in a variety of roles for over 25 years, Chip DeLorenzo is a trainer, consultant and co-author of Positive Discipline in the Montessori Classroom. He works with teachers, parents and schools across the globe to help them to create Montessori environments that promote mutual respect, cooperation and responsibility.


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