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Students Learn To Understand Their Choices

Washington Middle School students are learning a new way to deal with behavior challenges with the help of Assistant Principal Kate Benson. Students who find themselves having challenges are working after school through Google Classroom to complete an individualized assignment created by Benson. The assignment helps them better understand the choices they make, how to change their behavior and how to learn from their behavior choices. Washington Middle School is working on having adults coaching students through challenging moments by providing students support and reminding them of the benefits of making good choices.

“Something I am personally passionate about is having students really understand their choices,” said Benson, who is trained in responsibility-centered discipline. “I believe that when we know better, we do better. When I came to Washington, I talked to our Principal, Melissa Emerson, about using the traditional detention time period as a learning opportunity for students. Let’s treat it as a class where students need to refine a behavioral skill and how can they learn from their behavior. Responsibility-centered discipline focuses on students owning their behavior. Maybe a student struggles with self-control – we can give them ways to deal with it through a teaching piece. We understand the behavior may not change overnight, we follow-up with our kids to give a pep talk or a reminder about the behavior they are trying to change.”

Students who are sent to intervention after school are given an individualized Google document that they complete. For example, if kindness is something that needs to be worked on, they would be asked what kindness means to them, watch a video about small acts of kindness with questions and a video on the science of kindness with questions. They would also be asked, “what small act of kindness can you to tomorrow?” There are 21 assignments aligned with the school’s expectations of being responsible, safe and respectful with topics like social media, the benefit and purpose of school dress code, respectful classroom behavior, conflict resolution with friends, reasons to stop “messing around” and mindful meditation.

There are many studies that show that schools that utilize restorative justice practices have seen significant decreases in office referrals, detentions and suspensions. Most schools fail to get lasting change in student behavior because students seldom feel responsibility for their actions and find ways to project their behaviors onto others. The objective is to teach students to recognize their challenge and give them the tools to help them better understand their choices.

Through the completed Google documents, Emerson and Benson can track behavior data by individual student, grade level, or the entire school, to react to it in real-time. They can see where they need to create interventions and the right solutions to help their students be successful in school and life.

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