Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tuesday SOL: What about restorative practices?

This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day. 
Check out the Two Writing Teachers website for many more reflections on teaching.

This school year, my school is exploring restorative practices. Although we have not had any formal training (the school is working on arranging this), we are taking the leap of faith just the same. We were each given a copy of The Restorative Practices Handbook to read, and a couple of our back-to-school professional development sessions focused on this topic. I am so excited for us! I know there is so much to learn still, but it delights me that we are refusing to be a 'zero tolerance' or 'no excuses' school - we are, instead, focusing on the needs of the individual child, and guiding them to a deeper level of thinking. 

What is Restorative Practice?
The fundamental premise of restorative practices is that people are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes when those in authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.
The International Institute for Restorative Practices and Restorative Works: Learning Network are two fabulous resources for more information on this approach. There are suggestions to ask the child with the challenging behavior:

What happened?
What were you thinking of at the time?
What have you thought about since?
Who has been affected by what you have done? In what way?
What do you think you need to do to make things right?

There are suggestions to ask the child(ren) who have been harmed by other's actions:

What did you think when you realized what had happened?
What impact has this incident had on you and others?
What has been the hardest thing for you?
What do you think needs to happen to make things right?

It means so much to have an entire staff consider this practice. Not simply the lead teachers. Not some random or elective course taken by a few teachers. Not some book read by one staff person and suggested for others. Everyone. Administrators. Teachers, both new and experienced. Teaching Assistants. Specials teachers.

Our discussions have been vibrant: what is it? how long will it take? what will it look like? will we say the wrong thing? how will we work in circles? what will a restorative circle look like? how will we communicate this philosophy to our families?  I believe most of us already see how our school's approach to children dovetails beautifully with restorative practice. We believe in teaching "the whole child." We know that in most discipline situations, there is a whole lot of "gray" - who or what instigated this? what else is going on in the child's life? are there extenuating factors? where is the child developmentally? We know that there is not one solution to misbehaviors. 

I think restorative practices are so respectful of children - of everyone. I believe it is rich with relationship-building between teacher and students. I know it is not going to be perfect - human relations are messy. I loved my principal's advice -

"Yes, it may not work quickly AND we don't give up. Humble yourself...most problems are resolved on a kid's timeframe." 

Here goes! A new practice underway! Happy new school year!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tuesday SOL: A poem about in-service days

This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day. 
Check out the Two Writing Teachers website for many more reflections on teaching.


Cold water, yes, cold water
after so many gentle days
Cold water, yes, cold water
welcome and know
new staff,
new spaces,
new technology,
new frameworks,
new approaches
Cold water, yes, cold water
read and absorb
agenda of the day
student lists
curriculum packets
math and literacy data
accreditation process
Cold water, yes, cold water
imagine and create
new norms
restorative practices
beginning routines 
Cold water, yes, cold water
so many moving parts
interrupted thoughts
long lists of to do's,
racing time
Cold water, yes, cold water
remind yourself
you saw it coming
When you expect cold water
it is refreshing,
the dust, 
the aches,
the sleep
Soak up
these in-service days
Soak up 
the new year
Soak up 
the sense of possibility.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday SOL: Project Zero - not your ordinary summer professional development

This is a Tuesday
Slice of Life.
All participants are writing about one moment, one part of their day. 
Check out the Two Writing Teachers website for many more reflections on teaching.

I spent last week at WISSIT, Washington International School's Summer Institute: Connecting DC Educators with Project Zero Ideas. The following quote is taken directly from WISSIT's promotional literature about the institute and provides a good summation of this thought-provoking week:
The institute invites educators to reflect deeply on how they design and facilitate enriching, rigorous learning opportunities for their students. A “Day at the Museums” on Wednesday, August 3, will highlight the ways educators can use museums as powerful sites for learning. The week-long experience includes both large and small group sessions, each addressing the following strands:
  • Building a Culture of Thinking: How do we help learners develop dispositions that support thoughtful learning across school subjects? How do we effectively create a culture of thinking, in classrooms and school-wide?
  • Educating for Global Competence: How do learners demonstrate global competence? How do educators ensure that learners in their charge explore complex issues of global significance through multiple perspectives?

My head is full from all the rich learning I experienced and I am very excited about the school year ahead. In the spirit of wonder, I thought it would be fun to share my reflections through questions. 

How do we build a culture of thinking?
How do we grow the learning?
How do we slow down and allow children to dig deeper?
What will we notice if we slow things down?

What language do we use to encourage thinking?
What if we routinely asked, How do you think we might? What might be some possible solutions?
What makes you think so? What do you see?
What subtle shifts can I make in my language to have the mind be more open?
Am I rescuing children or encouraging initiative?
How long do I give children to respond before I jump in?
When do adults listen to children?

Who is doing the thinking? 
What if classroom discussions were more collaborative?
What is the possibility of giving children something new and meaningful?
What is a powerful learning opportunity?
What is the purpose of the work we ask of children?
When do children get the opportunity to listen to one another? to try other approaches? to make sense of something?
What is an effective listener?

How do children learn?
What is the difference between doing a whole lot of work and having a lot of learning?
What happens when you align beliefs with actions?
What if we started with student's passions and questions and built our curriculum from there?
How do we provide opportunities for children to struggle, to grapple, to figure something out?
How are children being pushed?
How are children expected to extend their learning?
What happens when children have the habit of communicating their thinking?

What does it mean to be a citizen?
How do we prepare children to be globally competent?
Why is it important to consider varied perspectives?
What does perspective-taking feel like?
What if we invited children to be in conversation with one another?
What if we teach children to reflect on their assumptions?
What is the untold story?
How do we share the other story?

How much risk do we take in teaching?
What are we modeling for students?
When do teachers take the learner's stance?
What do we focus on when we observe classrooms?
What learning is visible?
Where do we see learning taking place?
What if we slowed down and noticed the details?
What if we did reflection instead of assessment?

What is my image of the child?
How will my teaching grow and change this year?
Where will this thinking lead me?
What is my take-away?
What are my next steps?
What if I start small?