Responsive Classroom®

I was thrilled when I found the website for Responsive Classroom® (, because the material on their web site described the components of excellence that I saw at the Classroom on Carpenter Lane. And, they have gathered data that show how widely applicable are these components of excellence: “Independent research has found that the Responsive Classroom approach is associated with higher academic achievement, improved teacher-student interactions, and higher quality instruction.”

The work described on the Responsive Classroom® website gives me hope that high quality instruction like that seen at the Classroom on Carpenter Lane, could be available to children everywhere!

The following paragraphs are direct quotes from the Principles and Practices page of the Responsive Classroom® web site:

The Responsive Classroom approach to teaching is comprised of a set of well-designed practices intended to create a safe, joyful, and engaging classroom and school community. The emphasis is on helping students develop their academic, social, and emotional skills in a learning environment that is developmentally responsive to their strengths and needs.

Core Belief

In order to be successful in and out of school, students need to learn a set of social and emotional competencies—cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control—and a set of academic competencies—academic mindset, perseverance, learning strategies, and academic behaviors.

Guiding Principles

The Responsive Classroom approach is informed by the work of educational theorists and the experiences of exemplary classroom teachers. Six principles guide this approach:

  1. Teaching social and emotional skills is as important as teaching academic content.
  2. How we teach is as important as what we teach.
  3. Great cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.
  4. How we work together as adults to cre­ate a safe, joyful, and inclusive school environment is as important as our individual contribution or competence.
  5. What we know and believe about our students—individually, culturally, developmentally—informs our expec­tations, reactions, and attitudes about those students.
  6. Partnering with families—knowing them and valuing their contributions—is as important as knowing the children we teach.

The following paragraph is a direct quote from the Research page of the Responsive Classroom web site: “Responsive Classroom® has been found to be a high quality program to support social and emotional learning: “In 2011, the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) conducted a meta-analysis of 213 school-based, social and emotional learning (SEL) programs involving 270,034 kindergarten through high school students. Compared to controls, SEL participants demonstrated significantly improved social and emotional skills, attitudes, behavior, and academic performance that reflected an 11-percentile-point gain in achievement.”



A Public Screening of the Empress of Everything–Messages from a Master Teacher

Please join me in supporting Science Leadership Academy at Beeber (SLA@B), which is adding its first 5th grade class in School Year 2018-2019!  I have been the School Psychologist at SLA@B since it began in 2013. I admire the staff and am amazed by the students.  Adding project-based middle years is their next adventure.

Please join me at the first School District of Philadelphia screening of Empress of Everything-Messages from a Master Teacher at 4:00 PM on Wednesday May 23 at 5925 Malvern Ave, Philadelphia, PA.  (This is school with a parking lot.) Suggested donation to the Home and School Association is $5.00.

I began working on this documentary film before I worked for the School District of Philadelphia, and when I retire from the School District in June, I will be traveling to conferences and festivals to promote it.  The film shows the inner workings of a school where young children love learning. I hope that the film starts conversations about the importance of the relationship between student and teacher.

For background and updates, please follow my blog  Messages from a Master Teacher and my Facebook page Messages from a Master Teacher




Empress of Everything-Messages from a Master Teacher is available for purchase!

I am thrilled to report that Empress of Everything-Messages from a Master teacher is now available for purchase on my Vimeo page. Proceeds will support a wider distribution plan.


Individual Attention

For 15 years, THE CLASSROOM ON CARPENTER LANE was a school for a few young children, for their kindergarten first and second grades. Denise Dee Haines gave my two boys a great start, and I love her for it!….and CCL can model practice with young children in other settings.

In this video segment, Dee describes an especially important part about how things worked at CCL:

“If I was having a turn with a child, I knew there were other kids who wanted that attention.  They ALL wanted that attention. So that I would use my powers to give them fair turns. They were usually quite patient, because each child was getting what EVERY child wants, which is INDIVIDUAL ATTENTION….

“So, the circle set up the tone for the day, and the grown-ups were in charge of what got done….We paid a lot of attention to setting up things so that children were active, and that we were supports, but we also gave them individual attention, their own time, where someone would come and get in line, but …eventually…not interrupt, but just wait, for a turn just like that, where you’re only looking at me and you’re only talking to me…..”


Individual Attention:



Who else thinks like this?

I am reading Sydney Gurewitz Clemens and Leslie Gleim (with Jed Handler):  Seeing Young Children with New Eyes; What we’ve learned from Reggio Emilia about children and ourselves, 2nd Edition, 2012 ( .

This book is about teaching young children, aged 2 through 7, those in nursery, preschool and primary years, with a deep respect for “A Strong Image of the Child.”

Sources for this approach include my hero Sylvia Ashton-Warner. Sydney writes about Sylvia Ashton-Warner:  Clemens, S.G (1996). Pay Attention to the Children:  Lessons for Teachers and Parents from Sylvia Ashton-Warner.  (order from

I am also looking forward to reading the following work described in Seeing Young Children with New Eyes: Scheinfeld, D.R.  & Haigh, K.M. & Scheinfeld S.J.P (2008).  We are All Explorers:  Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in Urban Settings . N.Y: Teachers College Press.

You can’t say ‘You can’t play’


‘You can’t say you can’t play’ was a ground rule at The Classroom on Carpenter Lane, inspired by the teaching of Vivian Gussin Paley.

MacArther Genius Grant recipient Vivian Gussin Paley talked about the experiment she conducted in her Chicago kindergarten classroom on an episode of This American Life called The Cruelty of Children

Vivian Gussin Paley wrote an important book called You can’t say You can’t play.   (

Watch Vivian Gussin Paley talk about children’s play at a conference at the 92nd Street Y in New York City in 2008: