November 11th Press Conference: #EndB21: An Educator's Perspective

On November 11th Teachers Unite joined the Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York for a rally on the steps of Tweed Courthouse to call on the Mayor and Chancellor to make changes to the Discipline Code, including removing suspension as an option for "defying authority" and provide resources and support to schools to implement restorative justice approaches.

Teachers Unite member Tyler Brewster spoke alongside students from the Urban Youth Collaborative. Below is an excerpt from her speech. Read the full thing here: http://bit.ly/1oHdEHP

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Read the full thing here: http://bit.ly/1oHdEHP

Restorative justice isn’t just an idea. I have been on the ground and in the trenches and seen it in action! I know that restorative practices work. It’s so much more than “going soft” on the kids. To be restorative does not mean to abandon all structure and “take it easy” on our students. Instead it serves to empower our students and strengthen the bonds of the community. It pushes students to be accountable and teaches them the skills they need to resolve conflict and repair harms. It encourages a sense of responsibility and it holds the potential for saving our future from the juvenile justice system.

... Whenever I speak on this topic, a particular student comes to mind. Let’s call him Student A. Now, Student A. had been to the school’s SAVE room so many times we could have named it after him. He had also been suspended countless times, and he had even been arrested. It was rather apparent that these traditionally punitive methods were not working. Each time he returned from a removal, he was angrier, more jaded. One day, it dawned on me: I had to do something different. Why not have a conversation with Student A.? Ask him about his needs, his goals in life. Help him develop a plan. A plan so that when he stumbled—because that’s what students are supposed to do—we as educators would be there to pick him up—because that’s what educators are supposed to do. So I did, and it was one of the most powerful and positive experiences of my career. I could immediately sense he was shocked anyone had given him the time of day. He told me, and I quote, he was used to being treated like a problem, so he acted like one.

Now I know some of you are waiting for the fairytale ending to this story, the one where I tell you Student A. never got in trouble again. But restorative approaches are not magic tricks. It’s a process, a journey, a way of life. So what about Student A.? Well, he still has his struggles, but he attends school regularly now and even wears a uniform. He has now begun to shift his view of what school is and is now able to see education and the places it can take him as a real possibility for himself. While that may seem insignificant to some, to me that is a huge success.