Harriet MacLean on successful restorative justice practices at a model middle school – POP3

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

Harriet MacLean is Assistant Superintendent of Education Services for the San Rafael City Schools in Northern California. Harriet moved through a variety of different teaching roles including learning Spanish so she could teach in bilingual classrooms before gaining her administrative services credential and being appointed Principal in the school she had been teaching in for some time.

Harriet MacLean
Harriet MacLean

After more Principal roles and coaching and overseeing a group of Principals, Harriet returned to what she describes as ‘the job of her life’ – at Davidson Middle School San Rafael where Harriet was Principal for 6 years.

At Davidson, Harriet led significant success in improving the attainment of all students and also put in place a system of Restorative Practice.

Harriet’s Top 3 in Restorative Practice:

1. A very strong, challenging and supportive academic program

This has everything to do with culture and climate and it’s essential before you begin to add restorative practice. Harriet removed the tracking of students and developed the community by getting people to know each other better by talking to each other. This is only possible if different kinds of people are together in classrooms. There was a culture of separation when Harriet arrived.

So a new academic program was implemented with a full ELD program and none of the original tracking of students. In her second year, Harriet introduced community building circles.

Suspensions were cut in half which has to be attributed to the new academic program.

You have to have a system in which every student feels cared for, valued, supported and challenged academically.

2. Build community 

You build community first and then when there is a break down in community, that’s where the restorative practices come in.

Harriet brought in a lot of traditionally silenced voices – students, parents  – and found out what it was they wanted from the school. She held meetings in the library but eventually also went into living rooms to carry out the research.

This enabled the school to bring on board people who were afraid of the changes.

3. Start bringing in the restorative practice

Harriet started with Restorative circles. Students fill in a form when there is a conflict and then a meeting is held at which the four restorative questions are asked.

After this was in place, Harriet implemented the Peer Court. This is ‘suspension diversion’ with the student, a parent, an assistant principal who acts as an advocate for the student and a panel of the student’s peers who have been trained. The panel produce a contract of restitution and the ‘victim’ gets to explain what the effect was.

Thirdly, Harriet used http://www.nobully.org When an incident of bullying occurs, a circle is convened without the target and run by a teacher or adult. A group of students is brought together which includes the perpetrator of the incident, some leaders and some who watch and do nothing about the situation. The target’s own words are used to describe what happened and each member of the circle adds one thing they will do to make the target’s experience better. This approach often results in the perpetrator suggesting ways to avoid the behavior in future.

Harriet says that in 99% of cases the bullying stops.

Using these three practices, the school managed to reduce the suspension rate to 40-50 in four years while student numbers increased to 1,100.

Finally, Davidson was the first to implement Beyond Differences which is designed to end social isolation. There is a Beyond Differences club and the first event was ‘No one Eats Alone’. The approach is spreading nationwide.

Harriet’s email address – hmaclean@srcs.org

Jessica Bonduris on simple steps for teachers and leaders to build/maintain positive relationships (with students, parents and staff) – POP2

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

Dr Jessica Bonduris is one of the Directors of Elementary Principal Support for the San Francisco Unified School District. Originally an English and History teacher, Jessica then took up various assistant principal positions before becoming an elementary school principal and eventually moved into the supportive position she now has.

Jessica Bonduris
Jessica Bonduris

What are the most important strategies you used as a teacher and as a principal to make connections with and build the most student to adult relationships?

Student – teacher relationships:

  • Stand outside your door and greet every student with a smile when they enter the room – make sure there is no tension in your body – every day is a new day.

Parent – teacher relationships:

  • Make phone calls to parents before any negativity happens – parents should know your voice so that when you call they wonder what the call is about rather than immediately assuming something is wrong. You have built the relationship in advance and are much more well-received as a result.
  • Ask each parent to send in a letter about their child – what kind of learner they are and what they need. Ask each student to do the same. This helps to create a mental image of the student and how to relate to them.

Principal – teacher relationships:

Communicate effectively –

  • Formally with staff – send a regular ‘Monday Memo’ – short bullets around events and pieces of the school vision. Make it clear you expect all teachers to read it every week.
  • Informally with staff – make sure you are out and about – in the recess yard, through the hallways in every classroom. This is essential to help you know what may be coming up and be ready.

Principal – parent relationships:

  • Create a newsletter – inform parents about new initiatives several months before it happens
  • Concentrate on ‘curb appeal’ – this is not just having the grounds of the school well-kept but also being there waving and smiling at parents as they drop off their children, greeting buses and making it clear you are approachable and friendly enough to encourage parents to come in and see you.

Diane Ketelle on essentials for navigating change at schools! POP1

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Brandon Krueger
Brandon Krueger
Kevin Mulryne
Kevin Mulryne

Our first kernel of wisdom comes from Dr. Diane Ketelle, Professor of Education at Mills College in Oakland, CA.

Before entering the world of education, Diane was a professional dancer, clown, mime artist and high-wire walker in the circus. She feels it influenced how she approached being a public school teacher, principal and later a public school superintendent. It gave her access to different, helpful, open-ended alternative approaches to problems which arose.

Diane Ketelle
Diane Ketelle

Diane says she learned about ‘every-day leadership’. The people she met may not have had the same kind of formal education as sometimes we think leaders ought to have but they were able to influence everyone around them in very positive ways, every day.

Top 3 tips for leading a positive climate change in a school

1. Listening

Diane thinks listening is probably the most under-valued leadership quality. Leaders should talk less and listen more. It’s all about listening, not just hearing what people say. We need to find the meaning behind what people are trying to tell you. Leaders need to be able to understand all the different perspectives that surround them.

2. Inquiry

We have thought that masterful leaders find solutions to problems for a long time – if you are a really good leader then you should have the solutions. In fact, Diane believes that the world is too complex for any one leader to have solutions to every problem. Rather, we need to develop a habit of mind to ask questions about what’s going on. With the complexity of modern schooling, it’s better to be able to find the right questions rather than just jumping to solutions.

Leaders should develop the habit of reflecting through surfacing questions.

3. Courage

Although it’s difficult to talk about how to develop personal strength or courage, Diane feels her courage comes from her values and privilege. Leaders have to create environments which allow people to practise being courageous. It’s essential to develop and respect courage within the organisation in order to enact any kind of positive change.

Brandon also points out this can apply to teachers and their students as well.

Please add your comments or questions and we will be sure to mention you in an upcoming episode!