So many questions. So many views. So many worries. So many feelings. Grappling with the conflict in the Burlington School District, I wrote these words. I wanted my school family back, filling each day with smiling and problem solving. After receiving the news of a final agreement, I wrote to Champlain teachers about a plan for moving forward. My suggestion was to:
Breathe. Take a moment to gather your energies. Breathe. Think about what's most important to you. Breathe. Think about your students, many of whom you have just started getting to know. Breathe again.
Slow down. On Wednesday we have no special plans for our school. No assembly, no special announcement from the principal. Right now our students are still fresh from summer vacation combined with an unexpected fall break. They are wondering about their "home" class, their specials classes, the big lunchtime. They are even still wondering about the new windows and library. Their sense of time is much different than adults, and for many, school may feel all new again.
Let's keep our routines on Wednesday, perhaps with a little pizzazz, like an extra storytime or visit to the outdoor classroom or woods for a team-building activity. Some of our students will need a refresher on class expectations and routines, and some will need to learn again as if from scratch. Depending on students' developmental levels, they may need to process what happened over the last few days during Morning Meeting. Or they might be ready to jump into the day and not look back. Every faculty and staff member at Champlain has our students' best interests in our hearts and minds. Listening, paraphrasing, guiding, laughing, and sharing can be close at hand while teaching.
Champlain enjoyed a wonderful return to school. Everyone was joyous. Teachers shared with me that Morning Meetings were thoughtful, productive, and pretty short; kids were ready to roll up their sleeves and work hard. Their resilience serves as a model for adults to move forward together. Teachers also expressed their deep gratitude for the support and care of our Champlain community throughout this challenging time. Thank you so much!
Peer Mediation Begins Its Second Year at Champlain
The response to Champlain’s morning announcements mentioning new peer mediation (PM) training was immediate. Perhaps this is due to last year, when mediators demonstrated the facilitation and problem-solving process during assemblies. Or maybe they heard students got out of class, sometimes for over an hour for a tough conflict. I’d prefer to believe that Champlain students want to be Champs for their friends, for our school, and for our families.
On the very second day of school in August, students came to the office asking for space to solve a problem. Joining them was Karlie Gunderson, Champlain’s new B’Kids After-school Program director, who watched students ask questions from the PM script and successfully arrive at a resolution. B’Kids will partner again in PM training to support our students all day long. Training for first-year peer mediators takes place on three Thursdays, Sept. 28, Oct. 5, and Oct. 12. Second-year mediators can attend a refresher training on Nov. 2, which will focus on conflict reduction and intervention. Typically peer mediation takes place after the fact, once the conflict has boiled over. Champlain’s second-year students, who can sew a special ribbon on their sashes to symbolize their prior training, will be encouraged to increase their awareness of school climate, and to offer thoughtful questions and solutions before a full conflict ensues. This may include reporting to an adult and offering alternative possibilities, such as, “Why don’t we all take turns?”
Parents/Guardians are welcome to volunteer at peer mediation trainings. Please let me know if you’d like to join us. Thank you, Champlain families, for all your support of student leadership!