DATE

June 17, 2024

AUTHOR

Ryan Donovan

CATEGORIES

Restorative Practices,Teachers

SHARE

I’ve always considered relationship building a strength of mine as an educator, and being an RPIA coach for the past year has given me the opportunity to work alongside my colleagues in a unique way I couldn’t have imagined possible. Last summer, my colleague, Dan, and I met for lunch to talk about the upcoming school year and to catch up. Dan was a bit anxious about being chosen for the Restorative Practices Professional Learning Community for the 2022- 2023 school year. In Dan’s words, “I have been set in my ways for so long. I am afraid that I cannot learn new tricks.” Dan has proved that narrative to be false a million times over. I am so proud of Dan, and all the work he has put in this year for his students.

Dan, is a math teacher at a high school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. For the past twenty years, he has been teaching the same course: AP Statistics. The students enrolled in this class include some high performing students like the valedictorian and the salutatorian of the current graduating class, and they usually dominate the classroom conversations, creating a blockade for other students wanting to use their voice. Throughout the first half of the school year, Dan and I met monthly to get to the bottom of this problem. An idea struck Dan during our January RPIA whole cohort session. Between this session and our one-on-one meetings, Dan was able to create a monthly culture plan to address this issue.

During the January session, the coaches led the high school portion of the cohort through the “Who is in the Room” activity. This activity has teachers choose a class and name every student without looking at a roster. Then, teachers put check marks next to each student they see as a leader. After this exercise is done, the coaches shared a list of all the different types of leadership styles: charismatic, team-oriented, participative, humane-oriented, autonomous, and self-protective. This exercise struck a chord with Dan, and his goal for his next monthly culture plan became clear: to enable students with various leadership styles to contribute more to class discussions.

This exercise struck a chord with Dan, and his goal for his next monthly culture plan became clear: to enable students with various leadership styles to contribute more to class discussions. Click To Tweet

After this session, Dan and I met to discuss his monthly culture plan idea. Through this we discussed the phrasing he was going to use in the meetings, as well as how he identified the students he was going to talk to. Dan decided it was best to start with the team-oriented students who did not participate in whole class discussions.

Dan was particularly motivated to work with two students: one who was struggling in class and the other who was doing well. One student had written on her “get to know me” index card on the first day of school that “the idea of participating in class intrigues me.” To which Dan replied, “I will help you face your fear, and this will probably help you do better in class.” She also had been struggling in class so Dan used that as a way to motivate her to do better. Another student was a complete rock star on paper, and would participate a little, but Dan wanted her to initiate and contribute to heavy discussion that can drive instruction. To her he said, “You have amazing ideas on paper, but you’d also really help yourself, me, and your classmates out if you participated more.” Since these meetings, Dan has observed an increase in their participation little by little. These students do not dominate conversations, but are more willing to share their ideas. Now my push for Dan is: What does this look like on the next level? How can he address the autonomous leaders and the humane-oriented leaders?