When it comes to the concept of “Do No Harm,” I believe we should consider our students to be analogous to a lightbulb burning brightly. If we aren’t careful, we can shatter that bulb, which could be extremely difficult to put back together, or almost impossible. But if we focus on its illumination, we can create limitless opportunities for growth within the context of the light that is being illuminated.
As my school’s future leader, my underlying beliefs of restorative practices and focusing on proactively creating safe and civil learning environments will help me guide my staff (and students) to create and practice relevant group norms. Discipline policies would be restorative and focus on accountability, yet would be fair. Discipline policies would be taught and would be enforced in a firm, fair and consistent manner. The policies themselves would be backed by research of maximizing student learning within a safe learning environment.
Our program practices would parallel the discipline policies. Athletics, road trips, and any other extracurricular activities would adhere to the same policies because consistency is key. The importance of analyzing and revisiting our practices would thus be necessary so students would not be victims of harm.
My staff members and I would be utilized within our own meetings and professional development events. We would also celebrate the positive culture shifts and any data that is pertinent to student achievement growth. It is absolutely necessary to not just teach staff, but to engage them, so that we can create the culture of buy-in with policies that emphasize “Do No Harm.”
At this point in time, my school does not emphasize practices of restorative justice and “Do No Harm.” Of course the elements of such are in place, with analyzing types of discipline and consequences, but our students would confess that they do not feel safe in all classrooms. In my opinion, if all teachers aren’t practicing the same policies, the results is that students aren’t being taught and treated consistently and that means harm is being done. I’ve even known students who come to me in tears because of things that have been said by a teacher (which then led to several parent/administrative conferences).
I’m not happy with the fact that my school isn’t consistently practicing effective discipline policies. In order to be proactive, though, and not reactive, I will work on introducing these ideas of “Do No Harm” and restorative justice (using data of student discipline logs and surveys) to our Instructional Leadership Team and department PLC meetings. I believe we can transform the culture of our school with positive adjustments to our policies and consistency of implementation. More importantly, students will learn more effectively and safely.
Five practices I will commit to this semester to make my school more positive and restorative:
1. Analyze the causes of student behavior in order to focus on restoration ideas; question my own students through surveys to see how they honestly feel in my class, as well as all their classes.
2. Encourage staff to get to know all students better, to build a rapport beyond the classroom;
3. Work on motivating students more with engaging activities that celebrate positive student behavior;
4. Celebrate courteous acts and respectful gestures by both staff and students;
5. Focus on disrupting poor school habits with positive practices that teach true citizenship (such as using cell phones for formative assessment activities and teaching digital literacy and citizenship; diplomatically challenging fossilized practices with those backed by research).