Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Volume Five, Issue Four:
Class Meeting and NVC: Interdependence Alive & Thriving

Our newsletter appears once a month around the time of the full moon. Our purpose is to contribute to the NVC learning of people who have taken at least an NVC Level 1 workshop, and help us stay connected as we endeavor to deepen a culture of peace within ourselves, our families and the world. We believe a Level 1 offers so many new ways of thinking that additional support for learning and integration could be helpful.

We endeavor to make each edition informative, connecting, inspiring and fun. Please let us know how the newsletter might contribute to your NVC well-being.

Our feature article this month is the third in a series by guest contributor Amanda Blaine, a public school teacher and graduate of the Maine NVC Integration Program.


Class Meeting and NVC: Interdependence Alive & Thriving

by Amanda Blaine

My colleague, a veteran math and science teacher, poked his head into my classroom. The students welcomed him with a chorus of, "Hi, Mr. ______!" They invited him to sit in the one empty chair remaining in our circle, and began explaining how this would work. First, they said, they would tell him what their concerns were. If he wanted to speak, he could raise his hand and the bean bag toy would be passed his way; once he had it, he was the only one who could speak. Everyone would have a chance to share how they were affected, and everyone could brainstorm solutions that worked for student and teacher alike. I smiled at my colleague whenever he looked my way, but other than that, I just observed.

Solving the problem the students were experiencing — more science homework than they could comfortably complete and still have time for their other work — was only one outcome of that week’s class meeting. Another outcome was their greater sense of trust that their teachers were reasonable, approachable human beings who really did have their best interests at heart. My colleague was also changed. He saw our shared students in a new light; it was obvious to him how much they wanted to do well, how much they respected his teaching, and how sophisticated they could be in their problem-solving.

In the last two issues of the newsletter, I shared how my growing NVC consciousness informed my classroom teaching. In February, I looked at vulnerability, and in March, at discipline. My examples focused on teacher/student interactions based on my own internal NVC practice. I explained that while these student/teacher interactions attend to the needs of order, harmony, justice, and safety, they don’t sufficiently address needs that are at the center of my teaching objectives: autonomy and interdependence.

That’s where class meeting comes in. I first learned about class meeting from Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott’s book, Positive Discipline in the Classroom. I hadn’t yet come across NVC, and the simple, democratic strategies of class meeting met a yearning I had, to share power with my students and for them to tap in to the power they had to contribute to each other’s lives. As I’ve grown in experience with class meetings and with NVC, I’ve modified some of the ideas. Here are some different aspects of class meeting as they’ve evolved in my classroom.

Same time, same place. Class meeting happens every week at the same time. Students know when it’s going to happen and can add agenda items all week. As conflicts or ideas arise in class, rather than me stopping and handling them in the moment, the student adds the item to the class meeting agenda. As long as it’s not something so urgent it needs immediate attention, we’ll address it at class meeting.

Circle up. No one, not even the teacher, sits in front of or behind anyone else. I challenge the students to move the desks and chairs into a circle as quickly as they can. One colleague’s sixth grade class holds the record at 37 seconds.

Start with gratitude. Once in a circle, the meeting opens with appreciations. I’ve modified from Nelsen and Lott’s "compliments and appreciations"; I teach students to speak about how their life was enriched by something someone else did, rather than making a judgment (even positive) about someone else.

This alone transforms the class culture. Over time, students see how much power they have to contribute to someone else’s life by appreciating even the smallest gesture that might have otherwise gone unnoticed (yes, even "he gave me half a potato chip at snack time" has made someone’s day). It also gives students a forum to appreciate outside accomplishments of their classmates ("I loved your ceramic piece in art class!") and outside visitors to the class, such as guest speakers and visiting new students. Students can also ask to be appreciated if they’re having a bad day. As the teacher, I like to model this one: "Everyone, I’m having a hard day and I’m wondering if one person would be up to appreciating something I’ve done lately?"

Put it on the agenda. This is the majority of time in class meeting. All week, students and teacher have been adding items to the agenda. When the time comes, here’s the chance for the class to hear what the issue is and discuss a solution. This is the part of class meeting that takes the most preparation. While we can start with making a circle and appreciating each other almost from the beginning of the school year, the skills that lead up to addressing agenda items take a few months to practice. It’s well worth the investment of time. For the first few months of school, after appreciations, class meeting time is devoted to a particular lesson focusing on a skill that will be important in this problem-solving part of the circle. Students learn to listen reflectively, to make observations, to hold each other in empathy, to accept that there are multiple realities and that someone else might perceive things differently, to aim for solutions rather than punishment, and to hold the needs of everyone in the room as mattering. I find this to be the biggest shift — the idea that rather than punishing someone who has hurt someone else, we want to find a solution that holds the inherent worthiness of this person, as well as the person who was hurt.

The items put on the agenda range from the mundane to the weighty to the grandiose. Students may put anything on the list and quickly learn that the time is precious; the silly ideas fall away as they see how seriously their classmates treat the once-a-week meeting opportunity. Items have included students shutting off each other’s laptops in the middle of class, to trash piling up in the desks, to a student terrorizing the substitute teacher and the rest of the class not knowing how to respond. We’ve offered empathy around a student’s difficulty in moving between his divorced parents’ homes, problem-solved the challenges with an intimidating soccer coach, and, as you can see from the earlier example, invited in another teacher to address an overwhelming amount of homework.

When students add to the agenda, they don’t name names. When we get to class meeting, once they’ve described the issue, if there is a particular student involved, there are a few ways we can proceed. I try to read the group. If the student or students who are in pain still need empathy, we focus on that. If I have a sense that those in pain have been understood, and the person who has stimulated this in them hasn’t spontaneously come forward, I offer this to the class: "We can work with the person involved if they’d like to come forward. It’s a choice. You don’t have to do it." Sometimes, the person will say, "I know it’s me," or, "I think I might be the person they’re talking about." Usually this inspires a lot of gratitude and appreciation on the part of her or his classmates for being brave enough to come forward, and appreciation that we can now more easily come to a solution because we’ll be able to hear what needs were alive in that person when they were making the choices that hurt someone else.

Often, especially earlier in the year, when the meeting is still new, the student won’t choose to come forward. This happened once when students were complaining about someone in the class consistently saying mean things to everyone around him. I knew who it was, but that didn’t change what I said next. "This is good information for us as a class. I’m guessing it means either they don’t know they’re doing it, or they don’t trust that the class will want to find a solution rather than a punishment."

Sometimes this moves someone in the class to express their care for whomever it is and their hope to have trust in the group. That might prompt the person to come forward. Other times, I’ll suggest that, without being able to ask the person directly what was motivating them to act that way, we make some empathy guesses. Some of my favorite teaching moments have been watching the faces of my students as they, for the first time, imagine why someone might be calling someone else names, and then see them literally leaping out of their seats with understanding. "OHHH!!! I KNOW!!! I think he might be afraid that he’s not smart enough!" Or, "Maybe he feels left out?!!"

In this case, after a few empathy guesses, Tim, the student involved, raised his hand. "Um, I think I might be the person everyone’s talking about. And yeah, I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. I’m sorry."

Suddenly, everyone was partners, rather than adversaries, in solving this problem. The strategies my students invent often delight me with their zaniness, or simplicity, or sophistication. But they are almost always something I couldn’t have imagined on my own. In this case, they came up with a strategy, approved by Tim and everyone involved, where a few eager students decorated small signs with Tim’s name to hold up during class whenever they wanted to give him a little nudge that helped him feel seen and also reminded him of his intention to be kind to everyone. I heard Tim say multiple times that year, "Hey, guys, don’t be afraid to be an agenda item! It’s great!"

I hope I’ve given you some idea of what is possible within the classroom when students get to experience real power, empathy, and collaboration. I also want to tell you that class meeting is not always smooth sailing, and that is part of the learning process. As with any part of NVC and any part of teaching, you get to explore where your own edges are. There is no one way to do it. Please be patient with yourself, and have fun!

Amanda Blaine is a public school teacher and graduate of the Maine NVC Integration Program. After teaching on the coast of Maine for six years, she is taking the year off to spend time with family, hike, and deepen her NVC learning with the Bay NVC Leadership Program. In the summer she works as a dialogue facilitator at Seeds of Peace International Camp.

Suggestions for Further Practice

  1. For the next two weeks, take time each day to express at least one appreciation (as opposed to compliment).
    You may want to use some variation of an NVC appreciation model: "When you _________,
    I feel _______,
    because I value __________.
    I wonder what comes up for you hearing this?"
    An example might be, "When you washed the dishes without my asking, I feel relieved and delighted because I value support, order and sharing. I wonder what comes up for you hearing this?"
  2. For the following two weeks, take time each day to express at least one appreciation to yourself.



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Upcoming Trainings

Trainings listed here are in the Maine region. If you wish to list an event, please follow our guidelines for submission. Please note that both certified and non-certified trainers, (who are willing to follow certain requirements of the Center for Nonviolent Communication), may be leading the posted trainings. Listing here does not imply endorsement by the Maine NVC Network of the trainer or the event.

July 28–August 1, Belfast, ME
Sustainable Communication: The Theory & Practice of Nonviolent Communication

A three-credit course offered by the University of Maine System at the Hutchinson Center, Belfast. This course is part of the Peace & Reconciliation Program at the University. No pre-requisites. Perfect for professionals seeking recertification credits while learning a specific, powerful process.
Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


November 7-9, South Portland, ME
From Conflict to Connection: the basics of NVC

Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration


Sept. 2014 – June 2015
Maine NVC Integration Program

Opening My Heart – Opening Communication
An Intermediate NVC Experience
Now open for enrollment!
Taught by Peggy Smith and Leah Boyd
pdf icon details and registration

Feedback from current participants:
"This is FAR more than I imagined."
"This is just what I was hoping for and more so!"
"The practices are so accessible and I am getting so many insights already."
"I am so grateful and looking forward to the home practice."


Rosa blanca (XXXIX)
by José Martí

Cultivo una rosa blanca
En julio como en enero,
Para el amigo sincero,
Que me da su mano franca.

Y para el cruel que me arranca,
El corazón con que vivo,
Cardo ni ortiga cultivo,
Cultivo una rosa blanca.

I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January,
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his hand frankly.

And for the brute who
Tears out my living heart,
I cultivate neither thistle nor nettle,
I cultivate a white rose.

from Poesía de José Martí, Versos Sencillos-1891



Invitation to
Monthly Empathy Circle

First Friday of each month, 10am-1pm
at Open Communication office
243 High Street, Belfast, ME
You are welcome to come when you can. If this is your first time coming, please contact Linda beforehand:
Phone 322-2122 / email

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Do you want to receive emails about upcoming NVC trainings and other NVC events in and near Maine?

Join the Maine NVC Network
Yahoo Group

The group is moderated and is only used for announcements of regional workshops and other Maine NVC Network events. Inclusion in list serve announcements does not imply endorsement by the Network.


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Just Released!

  • Ever wonder how we ended up in our current situation?
  • Ever wonder if there is a way to sustainability and peace?
  • Ever wonder if REAL people can integrate NVC into life?

Miki Kashtan's book Spinning Threads of Radical Aliveness: Transcending the Legacy of Separation in Our Individual Lives is a comprehensive book, exploring needs-based consciousness historically and personally, and visioning how to make it REAL in the here and now. Give yourself a gift of hope, connection and empowerment – don't wait – get a copy today.

We will give a full review of this book in a future edition of the newsletter.

Please consider supporting a local bookseller by buying through them, or you can order online here.


Call for Volunteers

The health of the Network depends on the joyful efforts of all who yearn to bring nonviolent consciousness to our region.
To learn more, email our volunteer coordinator.



Paid Announcements

Clarity Services, LLC
Now Accepting Clients

Helping groups of people think together collaboratively and effectively
Free 30 minute initial consultation:
1-877-833-1372 / email


Open Communication

welcomes individuals and couples, who want NVC-based support, to meet with them at their new office in Belfast, ME
Please contact Peggy:
207-789-5299 / email


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