22 Pittsburgh schools to use discipline aimed more at understanding than punishment

Sep 1, 2015 by

With classes starting today in Pittsburgh Public Schools, teachers at Spring Hill K-5 say they’ve been looking forward to meeting new students, getting the children’s reaction to new lessons, feeling the joy — and introducing a restorative practices approach.

The comments came as teachers in small groups on Friday practiced participating in discussions in restorative circles, one of the strategies used by the International Institute for Restorative Practices to address student behavior by building relationships, seeking the root cause of problems and helping students find ways to make things right when incidents take place.

The whole-school approach is designed to improve student behavior, enhance school climate and reduce punishments, including out-of-school suspensions.

Beginning this school year, all employees — from cafeteria workers to the principal — in 22 city schools will put into action techniques taught by the International Institute for Restorative Practices under a $3 million grant from the U.S. Justice Department. Part of the money will pay for a Rand Corp. study of how well the program works. Training takes place this school year and the next.

“I’m excited to try,” said Phyllis Long, a second-grade teacher at Spring Hill. “I know the key to managing behavior is having good relationships with the kids and the kids having good relationships. … Kids are more likely to do what’s needed of them in the classroom, to try to do the right thing, if they feel like you care about them and they feel like they are part of a community.”

At Spring Hill, where about 270 students are expected today, principal Erin McClay said that because of testing and other pressures, schools have “kind of gotten away from good old-fashioned social skills training and learning.” She said it will take until March to fully roll out the approach.

Source: 22 Pittsburgh schools to use discipline aimed more at understanding than punishment | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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