Between a Rock and a Hard Place
This is part 1 of a 3 part series.
Across the country teachers are being squeezed between data deep dives on one side and recurrent student behavioral issues on the other. The caught- in-the-middle pressure is putting a squeeze on teachers that is sending them out of the educational sector in droves. While the academic disparities are real, doubling down on looking at data and more testing will not make an impact with our most vulnerable students as long as teachers struggle with repetitive classroom disruptions with little or no strategic support from admin.
SEL vs. Exclusionary Discipline Practices
I say strategic support because increasingly I hear that districts are against exclusionary discipline but have no practices in place to support teachers increasingly overwhelmed by violence and threats. As the National Educational Policy Center puts is, a “sole focus on a reduction in suspensions and expulsions will not address the systemic and structural inequalities that impact students’ social, emotional, and academic well-being”. In short, being against something without defining what you are for, especially when it comes to school culture, negatively impacts teaching and learning. Restorative Practices provide structure to culture building and can keep students on campus while also respecting the need to maintain a safe, non-threatening learning environment.
A Whole Child Framework
Restorative practice is a holistic framework for comprehensive culture shifts that impacts students, staff, parents and every member of the learning community in and beyond the school walls. This holistic approach takes what we know from SEL and trauma informed practices and puts stakeholders in the driver’s seat. In the classroom that means respecting and valuing each community member and centering dignity and respect to help everyone think about how their actions affects others. This kind of #bettertogether approach, when consistently implemented, impacts the ‘whole child’, that person schools say they teach. Consistency can mean the difference between success and failure. Failure, at its worst, leaves teachers and students who “just want to learn” feeling unprotected with their needs often being unmet. It means schools lose good teachers and good students.
Next week, I’ll be covering more about RJ practices and how to implement it on a classroom, campus and district level, but for now, here are 5 questions you can use in your classroom today when someone makes a less than optimal choice:
Helping Students Think About Their Choices
- Why did you think that was a good choice/Why did you make that decision?
- How did that choice affect others?
- Who did it affect?
- How are you affected by the choice?
- What do you think you can do to make amends and give back to the learning community?
When students know they are valued members of a community who will need own up to their choices and make amends for any harm caused, they think differently about the choices they make and grow; both individually and as a part of the learning community. That deeper sense of belonging is what augments academic outcomes.
National Educational Policy Center, Meta-analysis of belonging and academic outcomes.