Instant Payday Loans Instant Payday Loans
City Springs School social studies teacher Nick West catches “Bobby the Beaver,” the talking piece he uses for “circle time,” Thursday, August 25, 2011. His 8th grade home room students, including Dwayne Jefferson, middle, and Jonte Parker, right, use circle time as an opportunity to interact, and discuss issues of concern.
The Baltimore City charter school has implemented several structural practices such as single gender classrooms and the Restorative Practices pedagogy.
Principal Rhonda Richetta’s idea is to create a safe and respectful culture rather than utilize traditional “crime and punishment” methods. After Restorative Practices became mandatory, the school lost a majority of their teachers. Mr. West, who just started his third year at City Springs, has the most seniority among middle school teachers.
This was one of the more interesting assignments I’ve had for Education Week. The story is about school security. But when I got to the school, I felt like security was a non-issue. I guess that means its working. Everyone was respectful towards everyone else — which is a pillar of the Restorative Practices model of education. Staff members use “affective language” when talking with students. Students were encouraged to deal their issues in “circles” rather than fighting, employing the teachers as mediators of sorts. I bet that gave the teachers a super-strong connection to their kids.
Something’s working at this place. I’ve never met more polite middle schoolers. And it’s not like this school is full of hand picked genius/polite students. City Springs is an inner city Baltimore neighborhood school. It’s not the worst neighborhood, but it’s comprised of three housing projects and 99% of the student body receives free lunches.
I got the impression that school was, ironically, a source of calm for most of these kids. Everything’s structured. — even their locker breaks. I guess that makes sense because when I was in school, locker breaks were when most of the fighting happened. And most importantly, the kids are learning! The teachers have the time to finish lessons.
“I don’t really use it that often.” says City Springs School Principal Rhonda Richetta talking about her security system. “It’s not this security system that has changed the climate in my school. It’s the Restorative Practices.” When she first started as principal she remembers having to break up fights 5 or 6 times a day. She wanted to change the school’s culture rather than beef up the security measures. She now finds that she has to rely less on the school’s security camera system set up in her office, and has fostered a respectful culture between students and faculty.
Faculty did leave, however. After Restorative Practices became mandatory the school lost the majority of their teachers because, according to Richetta, they didn’t want to change how they taught.
From what I understand, a major critique of this approach to teaching is that it doesn’t allow for educator creativity. Almost everything is structured and scripted. But when your students live in poverty, I wonder how much structure and respect a lot of them are getting when they’re not in school.