How To Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond

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Study, by Pete Railand

CO N T E N T S 03.


Classrooms Practicing Discipline Succeed

Build in Spaces for Successful Self-Reliances

Understand the difference between punishment and discipline; compare punitive, restorative, and transformative justice frameworks.

Use tools that emphasize self-reliance in interpersonal problem solving to supporting students growth in how to solve complicated problems together.



Find Your Footing on Foundations of Trust

Logical Consequences Bring Meaningful Changes in Behavior

Trust is an essential component in teacher-student relationships. Practice techniques that help build and rebuild trust among groups.

Create a culture of positive discipline through mindfulness, intentionality, and consistency.



Create a Culture of Consequences

Perpetual Practice Makes Discipline a Reality

Dissolve power dynamics and make decisions together. Establish values and create community agreements.

Insert small practices into daily routines and habits to create a more joyful classroom.

This resource was created to offer educators tools and insights to help create alternatives to punishment in classrooms. While created with classroom teachers in mind, these tools are easy to adapt for use by families, organizations, clubs, or any group. How we share space together can be more powerful and transformative than what we've come to do in that space. These tools are based on cutting edge research in education and human development and designed to be accessible and malleable enough for anyone to use. This resource was created by Atom Fire Arts Cooperative for the Building Accountable Communities Project (Project NIA).

How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond


Classrooms Practicing Discipline Succeed The benefits of using discipline instead of punishment have been touted by medical doctors, therapists, researchers, scientists, educators, faith leaders, parents, teachers, business executives, and basically anyone who has tried it in earnest. They all acknowledge that understanding how to facilitate growth from mistakes, rather than instilling a fear of mistakes, has better outcomes for individuals, organizations, and society as a whole. If this is a new idea for you, be sure to take the time to check out all the in-depth research available from Conscious Discipline1 or Harvard’s Center for the Developing Child2. Understanding the difference between punishment and discipline, and making the best use of this information in our classrooms, families, and organizations starts with comparing punitive, restorative, and transformative justice frameworks. Punitive frameworks rely on punishment to maintain order. That means the consequences for actions interpreted as “bad” behavior include things like imprisonment, suspensions, physical assault, humiliation, and deprivation. A punitive system is coercive, it is something that happens to you. It does not seek consent, does not increase self control, and does not foster reflection, growth, or change in behavior. In a punitive framework, there is an authority who wields power, judges actions, and enforces punishments. If you take a loaf of bread from the store without paying, punitive consequences for this offense could be incarceration, fines, or worse. Research has clearly shown that punishment and punitive frameworks are harmful to our mental, emotional, and social development, our self esteem, and our relationships with others.

Restorative frameworks seek to restore things to the way they were before harm was done, or otherwise mitigate the impact of our actions. There are several methods for restorative frameworks, depending on the context. There is usually still an authority or authorities who are in charge of this process, but there is also opportunity for community involvement. It is not something that happens to but rather with the person who caused harm, and all parties must consent to being a part of a restorative process. It is something we choose to do, instead of something that happens to us, giving us an opportunity to make things better after we make a mistake. In a restorative framework, if we take a loaf of bread the consequence might be to return the loaf or to pay for it, with an apology for taking it in the first place. The main drawback here is that the person who took the bread may still be hungry, and therefore feel like their actions are justified, or may need to try to repeat their behavior without getting caught next time. After all, it is difficult to consider changing your behavior for the good of the group if the group is unwilling to change its behavior to accommodate the survival and well-being of all of its members. Transformative frameworks are methods of dealing with impactful behavior that seek to transform our situations in response to harm. Transformative frameworks look and function in many ways like restorative ones. Involvement is consent-based and seeks to solve a problem with involved and interested parties. However, in a transformative context we are not looking to just restore things to their prior state, but to understand and address the underlying issues, struggles, and power imbalance. In a transformative framework, if you take a loaf of bread, you are asked why, and then action can be taken from there. If you took it because

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How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond


you were hungry, a transformative framework might look for ways to make sure you can access food and other basic necessities. If you took it for fun, consequences might include helping make more bread so you gain a new appreciation and respect for the work of the baker. In order to support transformative frameworks we must develop a culture that is flexible, responsive, and has a strong set of values and community agreements in practice. To achieve this, group dynamics based in restorative and transformative frameworks work to create a culture that relies on discipline instead of punishment. By using consequences as opportunities

for growth, building resilience, learning, and strengthening relationships, we can more easily manage behavior in our classrooms. Even better, we can improve lifelong outcomes for students and take everyday action to create the world we want to live in. The core practices, spaces, activities, and lessons in this resource are concrete tools for implementing these concepts. These can easily be adapted for different ages and skill levels, families, schools, or other organizations. If you aren’t sure how to make something work for your group, just try it! Practice doesn't just help us build habits, it helps us test and grow what we think we know and, when we do it together, these concepts become our group culture.

How we share space together can be more powerful and transformative than what we’ve come to do in that space.

Punitive Frameworks • Rely on punishment to maintain order • Coercive • Do not seek consent • Do not increase self-control • Do not foster reflection, growth, or change in behavior • Harmful to mental, emotional, and social development

Restorative Frameworks

Transformative Frameworks

• Seek to restore things to the way they were before harm was done

• Seek to transform our situations in response to harm

• Aims to mitigate the impact of our actions

• Aim to understand and address the underlying issues, struggles, and power imbalance

• Something that happens with the person who caused harm rather than to them • All parties must consent • Does not resolve underlying cause of the actions

How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond

• Consent-based • Rely on a culture that is flexible, responsive, and has a strong set of values and community agreements


Find your Footing on Foundations of Trust Trusting relationships don’t come from nowhere, and disciplined groups with strong relationships don’t happen without trust. Establishing trust in a group is an ongoing practice. Use these techniques to build and rebuild trust among groups: Establish belonging and openly reject social disposability: In her book Daring Greatly, Dr. Brene Brown3 notes that there is a stark difference between belonging and fitting in. In fact, she asserts that fitting in creates barriers to belonging. She writes, “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are, it requires us to be who we are.” Middle and high school students who she interviewed were able to clearly understand and articulate this difference in their lived experiences. Possibly you can as well. Many of us spend so much of our youth trying to fit in that we find we don’t even know who we are when we grow up. In order to support a culture of belonging, we must strive - through our words, actions and reflections - to embody the idea that no one is disposable. That diversity is strength. That being who we are as individuals helps us all flourish as a group. Be explicit to ensure students understand that each of them is already a member of their class, that they are already accepted and belong there without doing anything particular to fit in. Celebrating the unique (and possibly even lookeddown-upon) characteristics and traits in our students is a way to foster a sense of belonging. Most importantly, we must check our own preconceived ideas and biases in order to best support students/individuals whose education we are working to facilitate. Interest inventories: Showing students that they will have a voice and a choice in their learning space is a great way to initiate

trust-building. Use a survey to get to know what students are interested in, what their goals are for the year, what their pronouns are, and what they need to feel good in their learning space. Collaging or other creative activities can open up imaginations and spark new ideas. Give them the opportunity to share their interests and creations with the group. It may be beneficial to do this a few times over the course of your time together to allow for growth and changes in learners’ interests and preferences. Acknowledge and celebrate mistakes: This is so important. Do this for a mistake you make first. Set the stage by modeling making a mistake, feeling the discomfort, learning from it, and moving on. You might stage the first one, though it should have some authentic background. Tell a story about a real mistake you made somewhere else and what you learned from it. Open up the floor to sharing stories of important mistakes and create a celebration to honor the wisdom we gain from them. Introduce silent signals: Being able to get our needs met without always calling attention to ourselves or disrupting a lesson can feel like an impossible situation for both teachers and students. Identify common needs that will have to be addressed such as going to the bathroom, sharpening a pencil, asking for help, or needing to take a time out at the reflection area. Then, assign silent signals for those needs. Using sign language is an excellent tool that allows the class to learn something new together and have some good, if very basic, grasp on another language. Signals can be acknowledged silently as well, with a nod, a shake of the head, or a finger held up signaling to wait a bit. Students who yell out or disrupt the class for any of these needs can be easily redirected to the silent signal and supported in their use by peers who are often glad to remind them how to get their needs met.


How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond


Journal share: If you have the capacity, shared journaling or correspondence is an excellent tool for building rapport and trust with individual students. The practice is simple enough. Give each student a notebook. The first page should be a letter from you explaining the process and sharing some of your own information, like hopes and goals for the year. Ask students to use the journals to communicate with you regularly (you may set a minimum, but ideally leave it open for students to use as they choose). You may put a question or reflection up regularly for students to journal about as a prompt. The main point is that when they write to you, you respond. Do not correct spelling or grammar, just respond and create space to continue the conversation if applicable. Create a space for students to turn the notebooks in when there is a new entry and create deadlines for yourself to respond - it can be helpful to post this “return” time near the notebook inbox or otherwise create a regular expectation of how long you’ll keep them before responding. Give students the option of a red post-it note to stick on top of their journal, or an alternate place to turn it in if the matter is urgent but they still prefer this communication method. Some students will find it easier to write a note about what they are struggling with than to say it out loud. This form of communication creates another option for students and teachers alike to meet their needs. Goal setting: Set goals together and discuss what it will take to meet them. This can be used in a number of contexts including setting goals for one lesson, the school year or our lives. This not only recognizes that the personal goals of each student are important, but allows teachers a chance to use those goals to help motivate students. It is also of note that setting goals is an excellent practice for general self-development and intrinsic motivation, but make sure the goals you set with students are achievable. Using models like the “SMART goals” from mindtools.com4 can help take longer term goals and break them down into smaller, measurable, achievable goals that can be completed in the time that students have in the classroom. Setting achievable goals helps maintain and boost motivation. 4 5 6

How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond

Games: Surrealist games shake up what we think is “normal” and make space for individual experience and interpretation. There are many different versions of surrealist games, but the point of each is to get your brain thinking in a different way that makes space for new possibilities. Whether playing with words, images, or textures, these are excellent tools, many of which can be done in a very short amount of time. Several games, from Telephone to Exquisite Corpse, can be found at artclasscurator.com5 and adjusted to the development level of any class or group. Trust practices for group cooperation and relationship building may seem trite, but they really do create chances to activate and connect. There are many versions from trust falls, to blind walks, to drawing exercises. When it seems like nobody can get along, these kinds of exercises can remind the group that we are here for each other even when we get frustrated with one another. A quick search for trust building activities will generate a plethora of information like the weareteachers.com6 resource “Team Building Games and Activities for the Classroom.” Curiosity Telephone demonstrates the benefit of asking for help or more information. This game is like the classic surrealist game Telephone, but with an extra step. Divide the group in two, or play two rounds with the same group. Group/Round 1 is a regular round of Telephone, where one message is passed around the group with no follow-up or clarifying questions allowed. Group/Round 2 plays a round of Curiosity Telephone, where the person receiving the information gets to ask one clarifying question before passing the information to the next person. Debrief together and reflect on which group/round had better information. An excellent practice for active listening! When used properly, everything else we will talk about in this resource reinforces this foundation of trust. If the trust is broken by inconsistent enforcement, reverting to punishment, or disregarding the agency, boundaries, or credibility of any individual student, it will be an uphill battle to regain this trust. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth working on. Remember that a relationship based in trust is an essential component in a teacher-student relationship: without it, our efficacy as their teacher is stunted.


Create a Culture of Consequences If students are kept in the dark about what might happen and to whom because of inconsistent, overly harsh, or hard to understand standards of behavior, they will not likely be able to focus on learning. Their brain will be too busy trying to help them feel safe in a hostile environment. This is the everyday reality for students in an astonishing number of classrooms. The easy way to resolve this is to dissolve the power dynamics and make decisions together about your shared learning space. Letting go of some of the control we often feel pressured to maintain in our classrooms is one of the most transformative practices we can engage in, for ourselves and our students.

Values Assessments Values “are the principles that give our lives meaning and allow us to persevere through adversity,” - Dr. Barb Markway and Celia Ampel in The SelfConfidence7 Workbook. What we value drives our actions and behavior. Taking the time to intentionally interrogate and define our own values, as individuals and/or as a group, is an excellent way to help us reflect and realign ourselves and our group. A values assessment is a practice in thinking about what is important to us, what isn’t, and then reflecting on how those values are apparent in our actions, words, and relationships - or about how they aren’t.

Beginning with this exercise and selecting core values for the space will inform our community agreements. In fact, sometimes these values just become the agreements. If everyone values authenticity, empathy, mistakes, and respect, the agreements for the class could just become a commitment to honor those values in our words and actions and to be willing to be held accountable to them. Using shared values to drive community agreements - as well as to reflect on and review the agreements we’ve made - helps the whole group move through growing and learning pains with greater compassion and ease. Individual value assessments are also very useful and making time for them on our own or with our group can help ground each person in who it is they want to be in the world. The mere act of considering our values can offer a chance for self-reflection and awareness. An individual might also do value check ins regularly in conflict or high emotion situations or as a check in after a life changing experience, event, or loss. It is used, in each case, as a means for reflection and growth. It can even be used as a redirect when dealing with an individual who interacts in ways that show vengeance, mean spiritedness, bullying, or antisocial behavior. Asking someone if their actions or words are aligned with their previously stated values opens up a conversation instead of shutting it down. While vocabulary and access to ideas and concepts will grow throughout our lives, no one is too young to begin thinking about what is important to them.

Letting go of some of the control we often feel pressured to maintain in our classrooms is one of the most transformative practices we can engage in, for ourselves and our students.


How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond


Here are some tips to help you assess your own values or facilitate a group assessment: • Think about times you felt happy, proud, or fulfilled. Why did you feel that way? Who, if anyone, was with you? Did they share your sense of happiness, pride, or fulfillment? What other factors contributed to these feelings? What values can you ascribe to these times of happiness, pride, or fulfillment? • Using a list of values to help you find the words to express your values allows consideration of many options so you can choose those that resonate most. Then shorten the list. What are your top ten values? Your top 5? Top 3? Once you have a list of all the values you hold dear, put them side-byside and compare. If you had to make a decision and you could only honor one value, what choice would you make? Once you have compared all the things on your list, you should be able to then sort them into a rough order of importance. This is an important part of the process! Values drive our decisions, and when we are faced with a decision that pits our values against one another, thinking about these things ahead of time will make the choices we make in those moments easier, or at least more aligned with what we hold most important. There is a digital version of this activity available at (that’s not a typo, just a weird dot placement). • Ask yourself follow up questions. Are these actually the things that are most important to me? Am I proud or excited to share these values with people I respect or admire? Do these values represent things I would be willing to fight for, even if my opinion was unpopular? • Don’t forget to go back and reflect on your values regularly. As we grow and our lives and contexts change, what we value most may change as well. If independence is one of your most important values when you are young, you may find that community or interdependence become more important as you grow. Our experiences can shape our values as much as our values shape our experiences.

Community Agreements Many shared spaces, like classrooms, homes, or workplaces, will tell you the rules for being a part of that space. We support the idea of community agreements in lieu of rules. Community agreements are just what they sound like, agreements that people in a shared space, group, or community create together. They are an expression of the collective wants, needs, expectations, and boundaries of the group. “Rules” are made by those in power and enforced on those with less power. If a rule is broken, then punishment is often the consequence. In contrast, when we make agreements, we discuss our shared goals for our space or project, we think about what we need to do as individuals and as a group to support meeting those goals, we discuss the norms for behavior, and we agree together on logical consequences that can help us recover and learn from common mistakes. When one of our group members consistently struggles to uphold the expectations we’ve all agreed to, we ask questions, look at underlying causes, and decide how to support them, which might include adjusting our agreements. The difference in outcomes goes much deeper than we can see. When rules are imposed on us, the motivation for our actions becomes extrinsic; we are simply being submissive to another’s will, or obedient, to keep ourselves safe from negative repercussions. When we use agreements, the motivation to follow them becomes intrinsic: these are the things we decided together. In short, agreements encourage a culture of growth and collaboration rather than intimidation and control. They can be used in any shared space or group, from families to classrooms to boardrooms to book clubs. There is no age requirement one must meet to be able to contribute to creating these agreements, in fact, the younger we are when we start, the more practice we can get! The most effective community agreements model the ABCs of interpersonal interaction: Agency, Boundaries, and Credibility. Providing each member of the group a chance to act with agency by adding their voice to the decision making process means truly respecting the boundaries and credibility of each contributor, and responding to difference with curiosity instead of shutdowns. If someone suggests an agreement


How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond


or expresses a boundary that seems strange or unnecessary, respond with curiosity. Asking more about what it means, what it could look like in practice, or why it’s important to them helps the whole group expand their knowledge base, helps the individual feel heard and validated, and creates space for coming up with agreements that really do consider everyone present. Be mindful, though! It’s easy to fall into the trap of using coercion to drive a specific result during this activity, but resist! Coercion harms the relationships we are trying to build with our agreements, and it has negative outcomes in relationships for others and ourselves when we experience or use it. So take a deep breath and let go of feeling like you need to control this; lean into the value of the process instead. Dealing with possible disagreements up front - with openness and willingness to listen - is important to building resilience into ourselves and our relationships. Here are some other considerations for creating strong and active community agreements: • Consider the goals together. Why is everyone here? What is required of you as a group? What are each person’s individual goals for the time you have together? Asking these questions can help ground each person in their own purpose. If some students don’t know what their goals are, or feel negatively towards the idea of being in a class at all, that’s okay. Work together as a group to build some common goals. If you teach a required class or grade level and the students didn’t necessarily choose to be there, this is a time to recognize that sometimes we do things we might not choose, but if we are going to be here, we can choose how to make the best of it. Imagining the benefits of what we are doing can create motivation that was not there before. Even better, doing this work together means that all the heavy lifting of motivation and purpose doesn’t slip through the cracks or fall entirely on the shoulders of the teacher. • Ask what each individual needs in order to feel safe, comfortable, and excited to meet their goals. The answers you get may surprise you! When we give people the chance to think about and reflect on what they need we can often learn simple ways to help others succeed. Understanding

How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond

others’ needs helps build empathy, helps us see our own needs better, and gives us motivation to compromise and follow through on things even if they aren’t directly tied to our own needs or desires. If the class has decided that whole class shoutouts are a possible reward, it won’t mean that every student will experience them that way. If a student is shy or doesn’t want to be the center of attention, they may not experience a congratulatory shoutout as a positive at all! Interest and preference surveys let students state what feels good and affirming to them. Respecting students’ choices in this way builds trust and models basic respect and consent. • Be transparent. Gather in a circle, voice ideas out loud, agree to hear everyone out without judgement in this process. If there are rules from the school or organization that must be followed, be clear about those and how they will affect your agency as a group. If you have a way that you work best as a teacher or facilitator, add that information in as well. • Adjust your own ideas. What you need as a teacher and what your students need as learners may be in opposition. Be willing to adjust your own ideas and practices as much as you expect students to adjust theirs. Be willing to try out practices that sound silly or useless to you. If you’ve set up a goal as a group, then that goal becomes the metric by which you measure the value or success of different ideas in practice. • Give up control. Regardless of our own personal philosophy or practice, there are many factors that can make the idea of maintaining control in our classroom seem necessary or desirable. But maintaining control is exhausting and puts the burden of the “right” action in the hands of the controller. What we think a student should need in order to function may not work for them. We may find that our class has needs that feel incompatible. Don’t try to control the outcomes or steer the agreements towards a catchy acronym. Lean into the practice of centering agreements around what each person needs in order to feel safe, comfortable, and able to learn. Let students see, recognize, and help solve seeming


incompatibilities. Like so many of these tips, this takes the burden off of you and offers everyone a chance to think critically on how to support one another. • Revisit and revise as necessary. What we need may change as we do. That doesn’t make what we said before wrong, it just means that what we need now is different. Creating space to review the agreements and possibly revise them builds a culture of flexibility and responsiveness that facilitates growth and our ability to be mindful and think critically. Even if nothing needs to change, the act of reflection will help reinforce the agreements, creating an excellent opportunity for recommitment. • Clarity is key. Every tool you adopt from this text including agreements, practices, spaces, activities, and group and individual behavior tracking should be explored with the class as a part of the community agreements. Using anything in this text requires the informed consent of the participants! Without their buy-in (and yours), none of this works, and there is no buy-in without real understanding. Explain everything you can about any kind of consequences they might face as early as possible. And then answer every single one of their questions! Time to Connect, Josh MacPhee

Community agreements expression of the collective wants, needs, expectations, and boundaries of the group. Agreements encourage a culture of growth and collaboration rather than intimidation and control.

How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond


Build in Spaces for Successful Self-reliance The Peace Place One of our core practices and best alternatives to punishment is allowing individuals the space to solve their problems together themselves. We first adapted this idea from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Program9, though they are not the only ones to suggest such a space. The peace place is a table, a corner, an area, or even a whole room where students can go with the specific need of solving a problem together. It is important to introduce, model, and actively practice some tools to help students use the space effectively. The peace place helps us understand the difference between intention and impact, and resolve interpersonal issues in a way that respects everyone's agency, boundaries, and credibility as we build our integrity together. In its most basic state, there are three tools that need to be modeled and practiced: active listening, conflict for problem solving, and authentic apologies. Active listening is when we listen specifically with the purpose of fully understanding someone else’s experience or point of view. When we practice active listening we remove distractions so we can give our full attention to the person speaking (keep this in mind when trying to figure out where your peace place will be set up). We can show others that they have our attention by making eye contact, using facial expressions that show how we feel about what they are saying, or expressing reactions through nods and vocal cues that indicate we are listening. We must resist interrupting or crosstalking if we are actively listening. We must withhold judgement, and temper our defensiveness. We can’t understand someone else’s experience if we are listening in order to refute or to find a way to deny responsibility for the impact they are sharing with us.

This includes withholding judgement of ourselves, because it’s just as hard to listen when we feel negatively toward ourselves. Guilt, or the idea that we did something wrong can be productive and help us make it right, but shame, or the idea that we are something wrong is harmful and fails to solve the problem. Giving someone credibility, or believing their experience, and trying to see things from their point of view is instrumental to understanding the difference between our intentions and our impact. Don’t forget to ask questions when you don’t understand or need more information. Asking questions, and summarizing what you’ve heard or what you think you understand when someone is finished are great ways to show that you’re actively listening. Active listening is something that takes practice to be good at. It is a perishable skill, the more we use it the stronger it gets, but when we stop taking the time for it it disappears quickly. The skills we develop in active listening support us as learners, strengthen our critical thinking abilities, and deepen our capacity for healthy relationships with ourselves and others. Conflict for problem solving can be an intimidating practice for some to engage with, especially if they have experiences with violent or non-productive conflict. The key understanding here is that the conflict itself is not the problem, but rather a way to solve the problem and move forward by bringing the problem out into the open. Conflicts can erupt into intense emotions when we can’t figure out how to solve the problem or get what we need, so setting up an understanding of how to deal with conflict that is aligned with our community agreements is essential. Learning and practicing conflict


How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond


for problem solving intentionally in a defined space helps us build our capacity and skills to do this well for the rest of our lives. To help keep things simple and productive, reduce the process to three basic steps when addressing an interpersonal problem. First, name what happened. Then, name how it impacted us. Finally, ask for what we want moving forward. This script can be a helpful way to start: When you… (state the action or what happened), I felt… (state how you feel about what happened) because... (state the impact the action had on you). What I want is… (state how you would like the person to make it right or do better next time). Example: When you used my favorite pencil without asking it made me feel sad because now my eraser is messed up. What I want is for you to please ask before using my things. The next step, of course, is an authentic apology. A clear understanding of how to apologize is an important way to show that we’ve been listening and are willing to make amends or be accountable. Being able to express a genuine understanding of your impact on someone else and showing that you are willing to take responsibility with an authentic apology is one of the best tools available for relationship building and maintenance. “Sorry” and “sorry you feel that way” are inappropriate. Not only are they ineffective apologies, they also rob the person apologizing of the opportunity to be responsible for their behavior or repair a relationship after harm. Apologizing with a genuine goal of mitigating harm done can have a life-changing impact. There are four parts to a proper apology. As a teacher we should practice all four parts every time we make a mistake that harms a student or the group process. In fact, it’s great to model this early on for students, whether staged or genuine. Perhaps you can even plan it with another teacher to show that this process is useful at any age. Picking up students a few minutes late from their library time (planned or unplanned) is one example of a time that a teacher could apologize to both the librarian and the students. “I’m so sorry I was late to pick up the class. I understand that you have

How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond

another class coming you need to prepare for, librarian, and I know we have a lot to get to in our next lesson, class. I’ll make sure to set myself an alarm the next time I have a meeting during your class so that I don’t arrive late again. Can I do anything else to make it right?” If you are staging this, be sure to let the other teacher know about your plan! The four parts of an apology can flow in a lot of different ways, depending on the situation. Here they are, broken down for ease of practice: I’m sorry for… (what I did). I understand it was hurtful because… (someone felt this way, or was harmed that way). I’ll remember to... (name something specific)... and make sure this doesn’t happen again. I hear that I can… (do this in the future or help by doing that) to make this right (or, if you didn’t hear how you could make it right, ask, “How can I make it right?”) Example: I’m sorry for taking your pencil. I understand it was hurtful because I messed it up. I will remember to ask you before I use something of yours so this doesn’t happen again. Is there anything else I can do to make things right between us? Just like with stating a conflict, the more we practice with this four part script, the more we’ll be able to make it our own in any situation. Being wrong, being asked to be accountable, or having an impact we did not intend can be deeply uncomfortable. Normalizing these practices and finding joy in them helps us build our resilience, our empathy, and our integrity. Designating a space, modeling and practicing these skills, and allowing for real life opportunities to use them helps us create shared spaces where students have opportunities to solve problems rather than just being seen as problems to be solved.

Reflection Room A reflection room can be useful for many situations. Sometimes we don’t even know what we’re upset about or why we acted in a certain way. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed with emotions, anxiety, or worry that it’s hard to concentrate or think clearly. Taking a moment to stop and reflect can help us calm ourselves and focus our attention back on who we want to be or what we are trying to accomplish. Creating a space for


reflection and emotional regulation, especially with new practitioners and younger learners, is a fundamental tool for helping individuals build skills for self regulation and control. A reflection room may actually just be a table, a chair, or a corner. Someplace that has a modicum of privacy and quiet is best, though, for helping us pull out of an emotional or behavioral spiral, cool down, and give intense feelings a release so we can come back to the task at hand. A reflection room should support things like journaling or drawing out our feelings and provide things like tissues, stress balls, or meditation objects. It should be a well defined and recognized space with a set of agreements on how and when it is used. In a classroom it might be that a student can use it at any time, but if they are there for more than a few minutes the teacher will check in. It shouldn’t be a place to escape work or responsibilities, but a place that is there to help us gather ourselves so we can return to our work or responsibilities calmer and more focused. Respecting reflection as a tool for our own growth and ability to meet our needs is paramount. If there is shame around needing the reflection area, it won’t get used. Creating ways for users to share what they’ve learned or gained from using it is an excellent way to reinforce its benefits and create a positive culture of reflection. This could be a regular share out, a book, a group zine project, or a bulletin board in the space to name just a few ideas!

Questions for mindfulness, journaling, and reflection: • What do you think triggered your emotions? Was it a particular person or situation? Did something happen? • What emotions do you feel? What do those emotions feel like in your body? Did you have a racing heart, tension in your muscles, shaking hands, or other sensations? • What were you thinking about when your overwhelming emotion took hold? How was your brain talking to or about you? About others in the situation? How realistic were those thoughts? Are they realistic in this specific situation? Is there another way to view the situation that might lead to a more favorable outcome? Using tools that emphasize self-reliance in interpersonal problem solving shifts the entire dynamic of a classroom from one where teachers are administering consequences and getting inappropriately involved in the personal matters of students to one where teachers are supporting students growth in how to manage interpersonal relationships and solve complicated problems together. Sounds easier on everyone, right? It is.

Al-Mutanabbi Street, Josh MacPhee

How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond


Logical Consequences Bring Meaningful Changes in Behavior Mutual trust, shared agreements and values, and autonomous spaces for self care and problem solving set us up for success with a strong culture. But what we do daily to deal with disruptive or problematic behaviors is vital to maintaining that trust and culture, as is including student voices when addressing issues. Creating a culture of positive discipline takes mindfulness, intentionality, and consistency. Grounding ourselves in understanding how people learn and are motivated can help us discern whether our approach constitutes positive discipline or not. Psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan first coined the term “intrinsic motivation” when they theorized that we are not motivated by the extrinsic, the material or physical consequences of our actions, but rather by the enjoyment and meaning that those actions bring us. Intrinsic motivation is sustained when three key human needs are met- the need for competence, for autonomy, and for belonging or connection. This research lines up fairly seamlessly with Camille Farrington’s research on mind-set, which shows that students are more likely to succeed when they trust four basic beliefs: 1. I belong in this community, 2. My ability and competence grow with my effort, 3. I can succeed at this, and 4. This work has value for me. That means that when we design consequences to help increase students’ sense of belonging, competence, confidence, and autonomy, we can affect both academic success and behavioral outcomes while increasing self worth. Creating a positive culture classroom doesn’t just make discipline easier though, it also makes it more effective. In fact, research suggests that there should be at least four times as many rewards, redirects, and positive consequences as negative ones for peak effectiveness.

How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond

Start with the simple, yet fundamentally life changing practice of celebrating mistakes and acknowledging them as learning opportunities. This is a vital mindset to help make space for true positive discipline. If we can practice treating mistakes as a positive step on our learning path instead of a negative one, many of the “problems” that we normally face become opportunities instead.

Individual Behavior Tracking Individuals can and should, even from a young age, be responsible for tracking their own behavior. In my primary classrooms we used an expanded color-based behavior chart to track individuals’ behavior, make space for growth, and understand and anticipate the logical consequences previously agreed upon in community agreements. Students start each day on green. If their behavior is disruptive or breaks an agreement they get warnings (sometimes more than one, depending on the class and what you all have negotiated together). After the warnings are used up, students must move their clip down one level. Students can move back up the board through several means such as changing their behavior, solving their issue at the peace area, or writing a reflection. Students can also always move up by behaving in a way that aligns with class agreements or values, as a reward for their work, their mindfulness, their care or support of others, or otherwise contributing to the space. Students track their own behavior and write or discuss with a partner a reflection on where they are at the end of each day, how they got to there, how they feel about it, what worked well for them, and what they might do differently tomorrow. A helpful variation: instead of names, have each student design and decorate their own clothespin (or magnet, or card) with names or initials on the inside or underside. Leaving names off the front creates space


for anonymity, and removes the possibility of feeling shamed by this process. Don’t think of this as a simple three strikes kind of situation, though. No one should be getting dropped to red because we told them to be quiet two times already and they failed to comply. This is not about your power trip. An expanded color chart is meant to help students understand cumulative consequences, not to trap them or play gotcha. We must be more discerning than that, while still maintaining consistency.

absolute last resort and everyone in the class should feel the weight of letting one of your own down by exposing them to punitive violence. The person who endures this kind of escalation and rejection from their classroom community may return less trusting and more inclined to feel - and act - like an outsider. It’s not a good look, and probably won’t solve the problem over a longer term. Reaching this point is a failure of positive discipline.

Here are the colors and common consequences from my practice:

Red: Student is engaging in harmful or disruptive behaviors with malicious or defiant disregard for others in the space, despite warnings. Like gold on the other end, a student may end up here because a peer has reported particularly or consistently unfriendly behavior, like bullying. At this point, involving family, counselors, administrators, and other team members dedicated to an individual student’s success may be called for. They are involved not to punish, but to offer supportive suggestions aimed at solving underlying problems. When a student reaches red, work to rebuild trust and buy-in; find transformative solutions so you are never put in a position to take them off the chart. Sending a note home or having a quick chat with a parent/guardian is usually the only step needed unless a student is consistently ending their day on red. The most effective solutions at this level happen when everyone is on the same page about discipline goals. If you believe a parent/guardian will react in a way that might undermine the trust you’ve built with a student or make them afraid of making mistakes in your classroom, it may be worth finding an alternative or taking time with the parent/guardian to get on the same page about how to achieve behavioral goals.

White (off the chart - no color): Student is operating outside of community agreements for an extended time or over many warnings, or has caused significant harm in a manner that must be addressed immediately for everyone else’s safety. This essentially notes that unacceptable behavior has escalated beyond what can be mitigated by community agreements, and/or that the student refuses to comply with or does not consent to being held to community agreed upon consequences. It may be a violation of the rules of a higher authority like the school or the district that mandates action be taken in this circumstance. The only remaining option is to escalate to an authority with punitive enforcement powers. This should be an

Orange: Student is consistently disruptive or causing harm despite warnings, but seemingly without clear malice or defiance. This is an excellent opportunity to practice a peer intervention, peace circles, a class call-out, or other peer-based consequences. Peerbased consequences can carry more weight than authority based consequences. Most people will adjust their behavior if they understand it to be hurting their standing with their social peers. If a disruptive student gets to hear what their impact on everyone else has been, they may realize that their peers don’t think they are funny, and they need to be quiet so the people around them can hear! Don’t overuse this or it will lose effectiveness. And don’t resort to shaming! This

The other really important thing here is that there is zero hold over. Every single day, every single student starts on green; even the one who got dragged away from a fight kicking and screaming yesterday starts on green today. It’s a fresh start. This should also be clear in how you regard them every day. Holding a grudge or showing your disdain for a student can go nowhere useful. Every person you teach deserves your unconditional positive regard. If you give up on them, they may give up on themselves too, at which point you have failed in your job as their teacher. Remember, students can move up and down the chart all day without facing further consequences. If they go all the way down to red and then back up to even just yellow by the end of the day, their consequences are derived from the yellow status that reflects their best efforts to get back on track, not the red one that reflects the worst of their day. Otherwise, there is no motivation for them to keep trying!

How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond


should basically look like a whole class version of the “peace place.” Yellow: Student is disruptive or causing harm and has ignored warnings. This simply lets a student know they are headed in the wrong direction with their behavior. The consequence is usually tied to collective consequences or losing opportunities to earn rewards. Green: This is the center of the chart where everyone starts each day. Staying here or moving toward gold qualifies students to earn individual and group rewards.

the positive classroom culture so well that their performance goes above and beyond. They are taking initiative, they are friendly and helpful,and they are intrinsically motivated. They can access all the gold level rewards and benefits and have probably been gold level a few times already. They are a shooting star! And now that they ended their day off the top of the chart, they are also the student of the week! Make sure everyone in their world knows and can share their excitement with them! Be very discerning with this designation so it doesn’t lose its power!

Collective Consequences Blue: Student is focused, working hard, and getting along well with others. This should be an easy achievement that lets students know they are heading in the right direction behaviorally. If they voluntarily answer a question, do something friendly or helpful, clean up after themselves, or act in any way that you want to hold up to others as an example, ask them to move themselves up to blue. Purple: If a student successfully and consistently maintains blue level behavior over a period of time, move them up to purple. Consequences for being in this position at the end of the day could be that you get to be the first to be dismissed, or you are a line leader the next day. There should definitely be whole class congratulatory shoutouts for students who end their day at purple or above. Incidentally, shoutout time is a good time to move students up to gold on each other’s recommendations. Gold: This level can only be achieved on the recommendation of a student’s peers. If they’ve been friendly and helpful enough that it catches the attention of a classmate, they’ll make gold at that classmate’s request. The top behavior marks earned by a gold student allows them access to rare and sought after individual rewards like free time to explore centers, taking care of the class pet or otherwise getting the most sought after classroom jobs. Or maybe not having to do a classroom job at all! Whatever they all clamor after, this student has earned it. And send home a note so their folks can gush over them about it too! Black: This means a student has gone off the chart in a good way! They successfully embody all the colors in our rainbow of a behavior chart and have internalized

How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond

No one succeeds alone. Never have, never will. We rely on others whether we recognize it or not. The infrastructure of our success is built by the collective efforts of many. Acknowledging this interconnectedness and creating space to practice and build our skills as a collective is important to our development. Collective consequences help highlight our interconnectedness and give us opportunities to practice our academic and interpersonal skills, if we employ them mindfully and intentionally. When considering collective consequences, it is important to note the cultural climate of the classroom. A collective consequence will not work without a strong set of true community agreements that guide the expectations and norms of their implementation. They are also aided by core practices such as the peace place and reflection room which support the concept of collective consequences by giving students tools and access to processing their own feelings, as well as practice discussing difficult or conflicting needs with peers. Reflection and communication are the cornerstones of collective consequences because this type of consequence relies on students to hold one another accountable to the agreements made and the goals of the class. A strong classroom community will support collective consequences and grow stronger from them, if we keep a few key points in mind: • Use it as an opportunity to strengthen classroom culture. • Intention is not the same as impact. • Use the core practices to support students who are struggling. • Be transparent- spell out in advance what the possible collective consequences are, be they positive or negative.


Some ways to implement collective consequences: Gem Jar: This is a whole class system and can be used in a number of ways, but the basic goal is the same. There is a jar and it gets filled with “gems” (marbles, rocks, beads, etc.) when the class meets a goal or exceeds an expectation. This might be a behavior goal or an academic goal. The class gets to decide on a reward that they will be able to enjoy as a group when the jar is filled. This can be used in so many ways. It might be that the whole class completes the day with everyone on at least green earns a certain number of gems. Or everyone turning in their homework. On some select occasions, with student interest and consent, it could be used to motivate that one student to benefit the group (ex: Asa didn’t interrupt the teacher or a classmate all hour/day/week and has earned the whole class gems). The key is that everyone gets to enjoy the reward because everyone helped contribute. While it may be reasonable once in a while to remove some gems, that should be a last resort and should never be used to target one student specifically- in other words, never “Asa didn’t do their homework again so now the whole class loses 10 gems.” The gem jar is about giving students voice and choice in their reward and a common goal to work towards. It allows students a way to motivate one another and help hold each other accountable. It should not be used to shame or coerce, but rather to reward the positive we see in our class and students and to note how, when we work together, we can achieve our goals. Making sure the goals are achievable so that the class gets to regularly enjoy rewards will make this a more effective system. If the jar never actually quite fills up or rewards are too far apart, students will quickly lose interest and motivation. Table Groups: In many classrooms students sit in pods or groups during their class time. Creating a collective consequence system for a smaller group within the whole can be a useful tool in some situations. It is essential to have strong goals for each group to meet with an understanding of what the reward is that they are working towards. If it’s a group that is often disruptive, a reward may come if they do not need to be redirected more than one or two times. Make room for there to be mistakes and learning opportunities. Model and help students as they practice learning how to show up for one another to meet a goal together.

How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond

Project Groups: This is much like a table group, but centers around a specific project. It may be a schoolassigned project, a project they complete to build a stronger sense of community and trust together, or a service project that they work on outside of class together. Whatever it is, define the parameters, expectations, and goals of the project, as well as how students can earn points towards a specific reward of their preference. In each of these situations it is important to remember, model, and practice how to respond when someone doesn’t meet the group’s need(s) or expectation(s). It’s easy for students and teachers alike to want to shame or guilt the student who lost the group points. This won’t solve the problem. Instead, model and encourage students to practice curiosity and support them in practicing. The ideal outcome when students’ actions or choices end up costing the group an opportunity is for others in the group to ask, “What do you need in order to meet our group’s goals next time? Can I help?” The point is that we get there together, so the more we can help one another, the faster we’ll arrive.

Build Communities, Josh MacPhee


Peer Circles Peer circles, also called “peace circles,” “restorative circles,” or just “circles,” are one of the most well-known and commonly used restorative justice practices. A circle of invested participants comes together to state, investigate, and address a problem or harm. There are many, many resources out there for teachers who want to implement peace circles in their classrooms. Project NIA’s website10 has some great information and educational curricula11 that supports this, and the Student Peace Alliance’s training document12 is available online. We have seen circles used from the classroom to the criminal justice system and have successfully facilitated them with even very young students. Any class and age group can use some version of the peace circle to address problems as a community with a few basic practices. In order to have a successful circle, keep these things in mind: Sit in a circle. This may seem redundant, but it’s important. Keep clutter and debris out of the center. While it can be great to have everyone on the same level, we also think it’s important to take bodies and their needs into consideration by allowing people to sit on the floor or in chairs as they are comfortable, as long as it’s still a circle. When we are shoulder to shoulder as well as face to face, we really do work better together. Be clear about the purpose and the process. What is the harm or problem we are coming to address? How will we manage our conversation? Consider the developmental, mental, and emotional needs of the participants. A “talking stick” or other passable object to help determine who has the floor at a given point may be useful if your group tends to interrupt a lot. If there is a set agenda, go over it together so everyone knows when they’ll have a chance to share their experience if they want. Ground yourselves in your group’s community agreements and shared values. These are the things you decided together were important and valuable. Holding ourselves to them, even when we are angry

or experiencing heightened emotions, is integrity. A circle is not a time to break agreements out of hurt or in retaliation, but rather to use them to help address and heal harm. Facilitate constructive conversation by modeling active listening and avoiding leading questions. The key is to make space for discussion and discovery, not to preach or use your power to pursue your own agenda. Participants often come up with solutions and responses that are far more effective and thoughtful when they get to do their own work.

Trauma Informed Care A powerful understanding for dealing with difficult behavior is to think of each of us as an iceberg; the behaviors visible above the surface are driven by experiences and motivations are hidden below the surface. Trauma informed care, as a framework for our regular practice and interaction with others, can help us see past our judgements and frustrations and allow us to interact with integrity in difficult times. Begin with the assumption or make space for the possibility that someone’s “bad” behavior comes from their own trauma. This is easily said, but takes a lot of practice, especially when we are dealing with something that feels very personal. Understanding that our harmful actions come from being harmed does not excuse the action. Accountability is still something we can and should seek, but what that looks like can be shaped strongly by using trauma informed practices. Imagine what our world could look like if each of us, as individuals, used the helpful “trauma informed care guidelines” from the Centers for Disease Control13 to inform every interaction.

Design consequences to help increase students’ sense of belonging, competence, confidence, and autonomy.

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How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond


Only Perpetual Practice Makes Discipline a Reality Building a culture that offers stronger connections to ourselves and others makes growth and change less painful, and allowing us to make mistakes without fear takes practice and perseverance. It’s worth the work, though, leading to a more joyful classroom and a lessening of stress for everyone involved. Part of how we do that is by mindfully inserting small practices into our daily routines and habits. Mindfulness is simply an awareness of our thoughts and feelings based in a practice of being present and aware in the moment. Cultivating mindfulness in ourselves, in our students, and as part of our culture is essential for growing in these practices, implementing consistent and fair discipline, and holding ourselves accountable to our own mistakes. Mindfulness practices have been shown to help regulate emotions and increase focus, as well as decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. It is a skill that must be practiced to maintain and it has been found to be equally beneficial to all humans regardless of identity or experience. There are a ton of ways to introduce and practice mindfulness in a class space! For example, meditation and deep breathing are great core practices that allow us to pull back into our bodies. Or even things like writing and repeating the purpose of a lesson or task can help students and teachers get more out of their work. There are heaps of books, activities, and tools for supporting mindfulness across age and ability levels available, try checking out mindfulness. org14 for tools to get started. We recommend meditation, movement, and gratitude as core practices. There are real benefits to brain function and they support mindfulness and the development of a self-reflective group culture. These don’t have to be intense, time consuming, resource consuming practices. In a classroom this may mean that we transition between subjects or classrooms with a movement or meditation moment.

These three daily practices are the foundations that will support mindfulness as a cultural value in your classroom. Meditation While it helps to have someone who has some experience with meditation, it is not necessary to bring this practice into our daily routines. An app like Calm15 or a resource like Leo Babauta’s Tips for Meditating16 can be really helpful for beginners. Meditation is about grounding, calming, and recentering our brains and bodies through mindful attention to the moment. Breathing in through our nose and out through our mouth in measured, even breaths is the most basic component. Meditation is an excellent way to begin a class. Taking a few minutes to breathe deeply and pull ourselves into the present moment increases focus and calms emotions that might distract us otherwise. Don’t worry too much about perfect stillness and quiet. Meditation is something we should be able to do even in the most hectic of situations. So, if your class chooses to give its members the choice between movement and meditation, don’t worry about the sounds of others moving around disturbing those meditating. It doesn’t have to be a perfect space or a perfect practice to be effective. Movement Studies have shown that doing physical activity before we learn something makes us more likely to retain the information. Start out a lesson or revitalize lagging attention with a dance minute, a stretch or yoga sequence, an opportunity to shake it out, run around, or jump up and down. When implementing this practice in a group setting it can be useful to decide together on when and how you will use movement as a tool. Are there regularly scheduled times or only when it’s “needed”? If so, what criteria do we use to decide if it is needed? Is it something anyone can do at any time, or

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How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond


will there be times when it is and isn’t appropriate? How long can it go on once it starts? Having agreed upon parameters helps everyone get the most out of this practice without being disruptive. Movement is also a great way to change the energy in the room when there is tension. Gratitude Gratitude makes our brains stronger! But that is just one of many reasons to practice gratitude daily. It improves the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, which improves mood, attention, and decision making. It also lessens anxiety, and helps us recover from a bad mood. No matter how bad I feel, a hug from a dog usually makes me feel better, which means that I can always be grateful for dogs, even on the worst of days. A practice of gratitude affects us in ways that go far beyond just helping us be more mindful. Even a simple daily practice of writing or speaking aloud something we are grateful for can have a lasting effect.

Gratitude practices have been shown to improve both mental and physical health, increase self-esteem and help build stronger more empathic relationships. Be sure to take a look at “7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude” at PsychologyToday.com17 to find out more. Speaking of gratitude, thank you so much for picking up and reading through this guide! We hope that the methodologies and tools presented here can help you build stronger relationships and facilitate others learning to do the same. We hope you’ll explore the resources provided and so many more we didn’t have space to mention. We hope that you’ll bring these ways of thinking to your classrooms, organizations, and families to help build a more resilient, connected society. Remember, if you are feeling unsure about how to move forward, just practice!

We Are in This Together, by Pete Railand


How to Share Space: Creating Community in Classrooms and Beyond


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