Hospitality | Hooray For Monday

April 15, 2024

By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President

Listen to this week’s Hooray For Monday podcast for an enlightening conversation between Aleta and Pax, long-time educator and Inspired Teaching mentor, about hospitality in the classroom, feelings vs. behavior, and much more!

My dear friend and longtime co-conspirator Pax recently forwarded me an email from a while back. It was written by the late, great Bev Bos, a lifelong early childhood educator and advocate for an engaging, exuberant, and kind approach to early childhood education. In the email, Bev Bos shares the words of a colleague who speaks about hospitality, and its importance in early childhood education.

She begins with Webster’s definition of hospitable as “being environmentally favorable to growth and development.” She goes on to offer 12 questions related to hospitality:

  1. Is your childcare program hospitable?
  2. Is there a sense of hospitality in it?
  3. How are children greeted when they enter?
  4. Is someone happy to see them?
  5. Does someone reassure them that their needs will be met and then see that it happens?
  6. Is there an abundance of delicious food?
  7. Are there lots of activities and materials?
  8. Does every child get a turn?
  9. Is there enough time to really explore and manipulate?
  10. Will someone sing and dance with them?
  11. Are there lots of opportunities to laugh and if they cry is someone there to hold them?
  12. Is it a place where children feel safe and actually are safe?

It seems to me these dozen questions can and should serve as foundational criteria for assessing the quality of an early childhood classroom or program. Actually, they are relevant to all schools and classrooms, for students of all ages.

This past week I had the great pleasure of spending the afternoon at Garrison Elementary in Washington, DC in the classroom of Candace Spencer, one of Inspired Teaching’s 23-24 Teaching with Improvisation Fellows. Ms. Spencer’s classroom exemplified all of the above criteria.

When I entered the classroom along with three other adult visitors, the 3- and 4-year- old children smiled; a few invited us to sit with them while they finished their snacks, some to build block towers with them. One student even invited us to fly down the slide with her and crash land on the soft mat below. (I chose to watch and cheer her on – though I kind of wish I had flown down the slide myself.) The students showed a clear sense of ownership in the classroom. The walls were filled with their drawings, photos of students and their families, and stories students had dictated to their teacher.

Of particular note was the way Ms. Spencer incorporated phonics in a meaningful, student-led manner. At times, she simply paused – when she spoke a child’s name or when a student named an object they wanted to discuss – made the sound of the first letter, and invited the children to repeat the sound, and to call out the letter or name other words that began with the same sound. In this moment when educators nationwide are engaged in “reading wars,” it was lovely to see students learning both phonics and comprehension, in a simple, student-led manner! 

As the day came to a close, Ms. Spencer gathered her young students for circle time and asked them to share three things they wanted to remember from the day, utilizing Scribe’s Record, an Inspired Teaching activity that centers student voice while strengthening students’ ability to remember and synthesize information. Ms. Spencer offered clear and kind expectations (“I’m going to choose 3 people to share something we did today. If you don’t get a chance today, don’t worry! You’ll get a chance soon!”) while keeping her students in charge.

Making school a hospitable place, for students and teachers, must be a priority for all of us, whether our students are three years old or 18. Students go to school because they are required to go there by law. But that doesn’t mean we should take them for granted. As the attendance crisis looms in our schools across the country, it behooves us to keep in mind that children, like all people, want to spend time in places where they feel welcome, places that are “environmentally favorable to growth and development.”

I encourage all of you to use this week to think about ways in which your classroom is already hospitable to young people, and ways in which it might be even more so.

For additional insights, resources, and information on Inspired Teaching teacher and youth programming, subscribe to the Hooray For Monday newsletter!

Hooray For Monday is an award-winning weekly publication by Center for Inspired Teaching, an independent nonprofit organization that invests in and supports teachers. Inspired Teaching provides transformative, improvisation-based professional learning for teachers that is 100% engaging – intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Our mission is to create radical change in the school experience – away from compliance and toward authentic engagement.

Listen to This Week’s Episode of Hooray For Monday

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