Photo © Carolina Kroon
Morningside Center Deputy Executive Director Tala Manassah talks about alternatives to suspending kids in early childhood education at the Albert Shanker Institute:
"Suspensions are not only ineffective, they're immoral. A suspension means that we are saying to the kid, 'You are not part of this community anymore. You are not wanted.' If there are kids who are outside the reach of schools, then schools have got to change."
Much of the power of the circle process resides in the talking piece – the object that we pass in order from person to person around the circle as we invite each person to speak or to pass.
What’s the best way to help young people learn social and emotional skills they can use for the rest of their lives? What’s the impact of social and emotional learning (SEL) programs like ours on students, teachers, and the classroom climate? Morningside Center has been asking these questions and working with researchers to answer them for going on three decades. Our joint quest for understanding has so far resulted in two major scientific studies that have helped us build our SEL programs – and contributed to the growing SEL field.
The questions continue – and so does the research.
Being teased is not something most kids want to talk about. But last spring, a girl from PS 24 in Brooklyn did a brave thing: As part of one of our “diversity panels” at the school, she traveled to Brooklyn’s PS 130 to share her story of being teased.
She told a class full of students about how she had been teased because she was overweight and because she had lived in a homeless shelter. She’d also been teased because she had a learning disability. But then she told the class about one boy at PS 24 who did not tease her: “Instead of laughing at me about how bad my math was, he helped me,” she said. And then she offered some advice to the PS 130 students: “Be patient with kids with learning challenges. Be like that boy was to me.”
Suspensions have "dropped significantly" at Manhattan's Landmark High School, according to principal Caron Pinkus. And there are fewer fights at the school. She credits the restorative practices her school has been implementing through Morningside Center’s Restore360 Program.
Pinkus explains: “When kids have been doing circle all year, they feel part of a community, and they don’t want to disrespect that community by fighting. So there are fewer fights.” What’s more, "the staff is not as quick to suspend, even when something does happen. We’re a lot more conscious about the impact of doing that – and we have other approaches to try.”
We wanted to know: Is Landmark's experience the exception or the rule? Does Restore360 really succeed in reducing suspensions? It's an important question not just for us, but for school districts across the country that are looking for positive alternatives to punitive discipline policies.
So we delved into the NYC Department of Education's suspension data to find the answer.
On July 15, a varied group of educators came together for a Morningside Center workshop aimed at helping “strengthen and sustain our intention to act for climate justice.” Brooklyn biology teacher Michael Sweringen called the gathering “the start of an excellent adventure.”
In a survey, 4Rs students were asked about the most important thing they learned, and about situations where they were able to use their new skills. Here are some of their responses:
In a survey, 4Rs students were asked what they do when they get upset. Here are some of their responses:
In her recent HuffPost blog, YouthBuild founder and CEO Dorothy Stoneman writes that “social entrepreneurship” has actually been around for a long time: “The idea that individuals create solutions to social problems, raise philanthropic dollars to replicate them, and then ‘take them to scale’ with public funds, to solve the big problems across the land, is not really new. But the relatively new title of ‘social entrepreneur’ has caught the imagination of foundations and public leaders, and attracts the idealistic activists who feel that creating something wonderful is more satisfying than attacking something that isn't working.”
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