Let's make our schools better than the society around them.

 

Morningside Center Friends,
 
Throughout this school year, our political system has given us one continuous lesson about how much national events matter in our daily lives. From the tumultuous presidential campaign in the fall till now, we’ve all been on a tense ride.
 

School walls are permeable. We and the students and educators we work with felt the hot wave of hatred directed at immigrants and Muslims before and after the presidential election. We heard the racist dog whistles. We braced for the policy proposals that would deliver a body blow to struggling communities and schools.
 
It all makes our mission more urgent: We have got to make our schools better than the society that surrounds them. 
 
I’m writing to tell you a story about how we can actually make that happen – and to invite you to join our cause by making a contribution to Morningside Center this spring
 
The story is about Nick Deming, a teacher we’ve worked with over the past two years. Nick teaches at a Bronx high school that serves students who have been in the U.S. four years or less. He has worked very hard to make his 11th grade English class relevant and engaging for his students. 
 
“It’s tough for them, because they’re dealing with the challenge of the language itself, as well as the content,” he says. He’s always looking for ways to help his students overcome their discomfort with the language, dig into the material, and start speaking up in class.
 
Two summers ago, Nick took part in Morningside Center’s 5-day Restore360 training. He learned about restorative circles. With support from our staff developer, he started using them regularly in his advisory class. He began to see how the circle could create a safe space where even students who are usually silent can find the courage to speak. “Circle opens up discussion in the classroom,” he says. “I know when I’m in circle, every single student will participate.”
 
He decided he would try using a circle process in his English class at least once a week. He hoped the circle would hold the same power in that class as it had in advisory. He’d chosen a challenging book for students to grapple with: Sold, a young adult novel about a 13-year-old Nepali girl who is sold into prostitution.
 
In discussing the book in their circle, students began talking about gender roles and sexual abuse. They opened up about their own gender identity in surprising ways.
 
And then it was time to discuss the book’s brief but upsetting rape scene. “That day, I knew it would be a challenging discussion,” says Nick. “But we processed the scene in the circle.  And then we talked about the effects of trauma. It was incredibly powerful. It was the most intimate and personal class of my career.” That circle session led directly to students starting a support group – all on their own.
 
Nick has made his classroom better than the world outside it. His classroom became a safe place where students from different backgrounds could share their experiences, explore their innermost thoughts and feelings, and take positive action together to address suffering.
 
Every day, Morningside Center’s staff works hand in hand with amazing educators like Nick to promote understanding, empathy, and awareness among young people. We help them create close communities where they can take on the challenges they face inside and outside the school walls, and even within themselves. Challenges including injustice, bias, ignorance, isolation, and hopelessness.
 
Please support this work in the coming school year by contributing to Morningside Center.
 
I’m grateful for our shared commitment to make positive change – from the classroom to the world.

 
 
 
Tom Roderick
Executive Director
 
 
P.S.  Although contracts with schools cover the cost of our direct services, it is your support that enables us to create and develop our programs – including our approach for tapping the power of circle.