Belonging: Creating Community in the Classroom

Mona Hajjar Halaby

ISBN 1-57129-084-2 2002 paper $19.95


What does belonging mean in the context of children’s school life? Ms. Halaby invites the reader into her classroom, a school community where children have the opportunity to experience that sense of belonging.

Even the troubled child, the isolated child, and the student with special needs can find a positive place in the classroom. During weekly class meetings—a time when the students meet with their teacher to discuss their conflicts and concerns—the children learn how to listen to one another, to make friends, and to resolve their conflicts independently, but mostly they learn how to live and work as a community.

The near-verbatim conversations among the students, and Halaby’s responses and comments, form the bulk of the book, with transitions that describe the changes in behavior and what it takes to support a student’s growth. These fascinating discussions show how eight to ten-year-olds deal with issues presented by other students, and their increased willingness to confront problems as they see the effects of positive changes they never thought possible. The students speak with increasing sophistication about social and emotional issues, and the compassion and support they offer each other enable the reader to understand the sense of classroom community being formed.

The final section of the book describes the development of the class meeting process, and provides detailed information on how teachers and others can apply the model. An experienced teacher of children, Ms. Halaby developed this model to cope with a range of difficult behaviors offered by students in her classes. She has received grants and honors for her work with her students. She is also co-author of No-Fault Parenting, Facts on File, NY 1984

“This book is crucial reading for educators who want insight into how young people think and dream.” -Herbert Kohl, author Thirty Six Children

“In the current frenzy about raising test scores in our schools, it’s easy to forget that real learning occurs only when students feel safe and accepted. The nuts and bolts chapter on running class meetings Halaby-style is a bonus for teachers, but this book is for anyone (parents, coaches, camp counselors, therapists) who wants to learn how to talk with young people about issues of belonging/exclusion, taking responsibility for learning and behavior, and being a good friend.” -A.D., reader 5-star review

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