Understanding All Perspectives

This week, I was working with a student who was having a really tough time. I had to take a moment and go back to what this child was feeling. I took a few seconds before interacting with him to make sure that I did not come off on the attack. The amount of disruption and disrespect that was being shown could easily have been escalated if I had chosen to go in with an immediate consequence instead of focusing on a solution. I am not excusing what the student was saying or doing, I am sharing a different strategy that can help resolve conflict. I am also not saying that this will resolve all conflicts especially when we add trauma and other outside circumstances. However, instead, I took a deep breath and asked the question, “How can I make you more successful?”

The student seemed to calm once the student realized that someone was there to help resolve the problem. As it turns out, the student was not respecting instructions and was escalating the problem because the headphones being used were not working. I am not saying that the behavior shown was excusable by any means; what I am saying is that by identifying the problem and seeing the issue from the student’s perspective, the situation was resolved in a successful way.

This was not the time to bring about punishment, instead, it was the time to discuss ways to resolve issues without adding to the overall problem. Once the headphones had been replaced and the student had a moment to calm down, we were able to discuss the reaction this student had to the problem. We set up a plan and a new classroom routine for the student to follow when something with technology was not functioning correctly.

Together, we worked out a consistent solution to the problem. The student had input in the solution and the hope is that it will be used consistently. However, I would not be surprised if the student has another inappropriate reaction to a conflict that can be resolved quickly. This is to be expected for many reasons, so, what we can do as educators is be consistent in our positive reinforcement and continuously model good decisions and reactions. This includes our interactions with students even when it is difficult – sometimes, when it is difficult, it matters most to us.

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Ways to Build Relationships

Recently, all Feaster Charter teachers had the opportunity to reflect on how they are building relationships. With our teams, we thought about what it is that we are doing to be supportive to our learners and how we are following through on our vision statement:

At Feaster Charter School, students are at the center of all decision making. We prepare our students to become 21st century learners in a multicultural society by infusing Visual & Performing Arts (VAPA) as well as Science, Technology, Social Studies, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM/STEAM) into our daily curriculum and literacy instruction. This integration challenges our students to communicate and think critically, creatively and collaboratively. By introducing the Arts and Sciences we are fostering leadership and reasoning skills, as well as increasing self-esteem at a young age to make a life changing impact. The students who leave Feaster Charter School will be lifelong learners who are on their way to being college and career ready.

Through building relationships with our students, we are helping to foster leadership skills and increase self esteem. Teachers on campus shared the ways that they are building relationships that will support their students to be life long learners.


Peace Path

When harm occurs, students work to resolve the harm by following the steps within the peace path.

  1. What happened?
  2. How do you feel?
  3. How does the other person feel?
  4. Discuss solutions
  5. Agree on a plan
  6. High five, hug, or handshake

Teachers have implemented the peace path in various ways, depending on what works best for the learners in their classroom. Several teachers have trained one neutral student to act as a mediator and lead the conversation in order to more efficiently resolve the conflict. Other teachers allow the involved students to take the language frame paper outside or in a quiet and calm area of the room and work through the conflict together.

It is important to note that one part of step one is to identify what happened. Sometimes there will be a disagreement over whether or not a harmful act occurred. In this situation, the discussion should be refocused to discuss why one person felt there was harm and what can be done to prevent this in the future.

Trust Circles

The primary purpose of trust circles is to build a community prior to any kind of harm or hurt taking place. If the students feel that there is a positive classroom community and the environment has been cultivated to be one where everyone is included, this can prevent harm from occurring. The secondary purpose of trust circles is to hold discussions when certain character strengths are not being demonstrated.

Together, over the years, we have created some effective trust circle prompts. Feaster and the Positive Behavior Committee (PBC) has worked to ensure that all staff members and all classrooms have the resources to hold purposeful trust circles.

Restorative Circles

Even if trust circles are held daily and the prompts are purposeful and effective, we have to remember that certain unavoidable events will cause conflicts within the classroom. When this happens, we can work to restore the community and show our support by holding a trust circle that relates to what occurred in the classroom.

Restorative circles do just this – they bring together the three parties involved in a conflict. Those who have acted, those who were impacted, and the community. Together, in a non-accusatory manner the harmful action is reflected upon, the impact it had on everyone is discussed, and a prevention plan is agreed upon. The group should come together with the common understanding that poor choices that hurt others happen and we can learn how to resolve the conflict together.

Morning Greeting & Afternoon Closing

When we start and end the day with something individual like a high five, hug, or a handshake, it sets the tone in a positive manner. When we close each day with something personal as well, it leaves a positive last impression on the school day.

Atlanta Speech School created a video to demonstrate the impact we can have when we all work together to make our learners feel welcome on campus.

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Check-Ins

Check-ins are not something that can be added to your lesson plans, but instead, they require you to know each of your students as an individual. Check-ins allow us to look at things like body language and facial expressions, keep a mental record of when students demonstrate certain avoidance behaviors, and knowing the strengths, interests, and values of our students.

When we check-in with a student, it can be for multiple reasons. You may know that a student gets very frustrated when they are faced with a complex math task. This would be an opportunity to check in with them before the lesson and remind them about using grit. You may have learned that a student is experiencing a particularly tough time at home. That would be an opportunity to remind them that you are there for them, not just as their teacher, but as a person too. The reason behind your check-ins will always vary, but they should be done daily and in different ways for each individual.

2:10

Teachers who spend 2 minutes a day for 10 school days in a row with an at-risk student can begin to forge a relationship. The purpose of this is to build a relationship beyond academics, but as a person. This will help start to build a mutual respect as you get to know this student as a person and as they get to know you as a person as well. In addition, taking this uninterrupted time can show that you genuinely care about the student. Some things you may talk about:

  • What was something about yesterday that you appreciated?
  • What is your peak and pit for the day so far?
    • variations include: rose and thorn, high and low, mountain and valley, etc.
  • What is something you hope for today?
  • I learned about _____ recently and am thinking about _____. What do you think
    • especially effective for students who are not likely to communicate with in depth responses
  • Share an experience and ask for the student’s thoughts.
  • What are you most interested in?

What you discuss in the time is not as important as what you hear during these two minutes. It is crucial to listen to what this child is telling you. Recently, I was talking with a child and he was telling me about what he values about his free time after school. This was something that I was able to remember and ask him specifics about the following day. It was clear that he was surprised that I took the effort to not only recall what he said, but also to ask him about it the next day. This was the beginning of us forging a respectful relationship. Of course this is also something that is sensitive and needs to be fostered and continuously cared for. The more that you listen, encourage, and recall, the more trust there is between you and the student.

10/2

This strategy comes from GLAD and is a great way to keep students engaged and using accountable talk. The 10/2 strategy gives the teacher 10 minutes of talk time and the students 2 minutes of talk time. The brain research shows that this allows time for students to learn, synthesize, and commit to memory. When students have a “risk free environment” to explain and listen to academic concepts, they are more likely to actually learn.

10/2 also helps build relationships because it gets students talking together and sets the tone that everyone can learn from each other. Even you, as the teacher, can gain knowledge from the students in your classroom. That is why we are all learners – because we can learn from each other!


Overall, we are working to build strong relationships with our students. This post includes just a few strategies that are being done along with simply knowing your students. The strong relationships we build with our students will have an impact on them academically and socially and emotionally. The way we work to connect with our students and families can have a powerful impact on how our students take on challenges.

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Social Emotional Learning

Recently, Feaster Charter has had the opportunity to connect with two educators within the Chula Vista Elementary School District, Laura Meyers and Rosalinda Bautista. They have been coming to Feaster Charter to share their ideas on SEAL (Social Emotional Academic Learning) and brain based teaching.


The Impact of Social Emotional Learning

These trainings and the ideas supported within social emotional learning can help learners be more successful because it can prevent harm from occurring or festering by building a community and recognizing that mistakes and conflict will happen, but there is a socially intelligent way to resolve it and get beyond that harm so that learning can be effective and uninterrupted.

Social Emotional Learning, when it is addressed in the class setting, will support learners as they experience conflict and give them strategies and skills necessary to resolving that conflict.

What is Social Emotional Learning?

Social Emotional Learning works to support learners as they develop character strengths and learn how to react in a safe manner when a harmful action occurs. Social Emotional Learning supports with self awareness and self management, responsible decision making, relationships skills, and social intelligence. This concept can be applied to academic learning throughout the day and will work to create social leaders within classrooms and across the school.

Social emotional learning can occur through many different modalities – teaching character strengths, implementing trust circles, and teaching dual purpose lessons.

Character Strengths

Each quarter, Feaster Charter focuses on two character strengths. These eight strengths should be applied everyday throughout the entire day as applicable.

  • Social intelligence – working well with groups, communicating with others, demonstrating respect in all interactions with others
  • Grit – having the commitment to follow through
  • Zest – actively participating and showing enthusiasm
  • Self Control – making good decisions and being able to solve problems respectfully
  • Optimism – thinking positive
  • Gratitude – showing appreciation, saying thank you
  • Curiosity – asking questions and looking for answers

These character strengths and the vocabulary can be used to teach students throughout the day as we go through our regular lessons.

Trust Circles

What are they?

Trust circles should be held daily as a preventative practice that can help build a community amongst the members of a classroom. Trust circles can cover any topic that is currently relevant to the classroom, they can address the quarterly character strengths, work to inspire the learners in a classroom, and they can prevent harm from occurring by addressing it before it becomes a concern.

When trust circles are effective, they get the learners who are part of the classroom community to know each other and build a relationship. Our learners on campus have often been in the same classrooms with their peers for many years; yet, they do not know each other in any way other than academically. Trust circles work to prevent that from happening.

When a classroom turns into a community, it is a more effective learning environment because everyone is able to work together collaboratively instead of in isolation. In addition, the learners in the community recognize emotions and life events and more supportive to each other.

What do they look like?

When first starting with trust circles, it is important to set up norms within the group. This should be done together as a classroom community. These norms should include respecting the thoughts and voices of all learners, working towards building a community, and helping everyone feel safe. The norms should be reviewed and followed throughout the year.

All learners in a classroom can sit or stand in a circle so that everyone can be seen and heard. Based on classroom needs, a brief video, or upcoming events, the teacher should choose a topic to focus on. The students may use a talking tool that is passed around the circle. While all learners are encouraged to share, it is not required. They may say something like “I have nothing to share yet” to demonstrate that it is perfectly okay not to share, but the ‘yet’ helps remind learners that they are welcome to share when the time for them arises.

It is important to note that trust circles may look different in each learning environment. As a leader, it is crucial that you understand the needs of your classroom community and work to support them. The overall purpose should remain consistent:

to build a classroom community where connections are made amongst all learners that will assist in academic learning as learners understand how to build positive relationships.

Dual Purpose Lessons

Dual purpose lessons work to integrate academics and SEL by:

  • Pointing out character strengths in literature
  • Strategically choosing literature that addresses the needs of the learners and holding a class discussion
  • Pointing out character strengths that are needed in order to be successful on a task or project
  • Modeling restorative practices as learning leaders
  • Facilitating conversations that connect academic learning to SEL Dual Purpose Lessons Looks Like and Sounds Like.png

*The above image explains how both teachers and students might look and sound during an effective dual purpose lesson.


Social Emotional Learning is effective when it becomes part of the classroom and school culture. This is a way of teaching and learning that supports all learners on campus – teachers, students, parents, staff, and community members.