The Oakland Unified School District, one of California’s largest school districts, is at the forefront of a new approach to school discipline. Instead of suspending or expelling students who get into fights or act out, its restorative Justice program seeks to resolve conflicts and build school community through talking in group interactions called “circling up.”
According to a recent NPR story the district’s as-yet unpublished research shows the percentage of students suspended at schools that have fully adopted the program has dropped by half, from 34 percent in 2011-12 to just 14 percent in the following two years. Data also show that chronic absence is down dramatically and graduation rates are up at restorative justice schools. The program’s success has inspired several other urban districts—including Chicago, Minneapolis, and Denver—to try some version of the approach.
Ta-Biti Gibson, one of the Oakland schools’ restorative justice co-directors, says, "Instead of throwing a punch, [kids are] asking for a circle. They're backing off and asking to mediate…peacefully with words. And that's a great thing." We agree! We heartily endorse having a protocol in place for talking out conflicts in schools—and anywhere else where differences typically have led to unproductive behavior.
We want to hear. What do you think of the circle up approach in schools? Is there another environment where you think this approach would be beneficial? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
It’s been nearly 20 years since a landmark study found that by age 3, children from low-income families hear 30 million fewer words than more affluent peers, putting them at an educational disadvantage. Now, a growing body of research is showing that more language is not enough to overcome deficits. The quality of the communication between children and their caregivers is of much greater importance than the number of words a child hears. http://nyti.ms/1qFikJu
“It’s not just about shoving words in,” said Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology at Temple University. “It’s about having these fluid conversations around shared rituals and objects, like pretending to have morning coffee together or using the banana as a phone. That is the stuff from which language is made.” Her study showed that quality of communication resulted in 27 percent more expressive communication by children over the course of a year.
Experts recommend that adults keep kids engaged in conversation by asking questions, making comments, and inviting children to share their ideas. Using encouraging words is also important (researchers found that higher-income families provided their children with far more words of praise compared to children from low-income families). To help develop more advanced literacy skills, point out words that rhyme or start with the same sound. For more tips visit.
We want to hear: What tips do you have for teaching language skills to children, and do any of these tips apply to other situations? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
“Like Barbie’s Dreamhouse and Hot Wheels, meetings at Mattel Inc. now come with instructions,” says the Wall Street Journal. The recent article refers to the toymaker’s new policy to streamline creativity and overhaul its meeting-heavy culture by limiting the number of people who may attend meetings (10, except for training) and decreeing: “There should be no more than a TOTAL of three meetings to make any decision.”
We agree that endless meetings can be a drain on productivity. Rather than setting strict limits on the number of meetings and participants allowed, we believe leaders should strive to make meetings smarter.
We’ve long recommended our PRES (Point, Reason, Example, Summary) model as a powerful way for meeting participants to get to the heart of any matter. We also recommend the “80/20 principle.” Identify the 20 percent of the discussion that captures 80 percent of the results. Empower participants to call “80/20” when they feel the discussion has reached a point of diminishing returns -- when people are repeating themselves without adding new information. We also urge leaders to ask every meeting participant to be searching for agreements that all group members support.
We want to hear! What do you think should be done to prevent “meeting creep” and make meetings more effective? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
In parts of India and Southeast Asia, monkeys are sometimes trapped by placing food in a vessel that has an opening just wide enough for the monkey to reach one hand through. Smelling the morsel inside, a passing monkey will reach in and grab hold of it, forming a fist—only to discover that it cannot pull its clenched fist back out through the hole. If the monkey remains clinging tightly to the food, it is caught. This attachment trap is often a springboard for discussions on a core philosophical principle: that by clinging to external sources of satisfaction, we lose our freedom. http://www.rubinmuseum.org/brainwave.
The Attachment Trap is also relevant to communication. When we cling to a particular attitude about a person (“I don’t get along with him; we will always argue.”) or a situation (“My co-workers don’t take my ideas seriously and never will”), we remain stuck in a paradigm that we are helping to create. When we relinquish biases that are based in the past or on incomplete information, we free ourselves to create new possibilities. Opening our fists equates to opening our minds.
We want to hear! What experiences have you had with un-attaching from an attitude or belief? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
A recent study by the research group Flurry found that mobile consumers spend an average of 2 hours and 57 minutes daily on mobile devices—continually stimulated by information. Yet studies also suggest we get our most original ideas when we stop being stimulated and let ourselves get bored.
A recent NPR story cited a study by U.K. psychologist Sandi Mann, who asked subjects to do something really boring and then try a creative task. Participants came up with their most novel ideas when performing the most boring task of all—reading the phone book. Mann says when we're bored, we're searching for something to stimulate us, noting, "We might go off in our heads to try and find that stimulation…and you start thinking a little bit beyond the conscious, a little bit in the subconscious, which allows different connections to take place.” Studies also show that smartphones impinge on our ability to do "autobiographical planning" or goal setting, which may keep us stuck in a rut.
Mann is now on a mission to “bring back boredom." As longtime advocates of the power of the pause and the benefits of silence, we endorse his vision. Visit this NPR link to learn how to track your Smartphone use.
We want to hear! When do you get your most creative ideas? If you’ve tried cutting back on cell phone use, did your creativity grow? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.