As part of our effort to enhance and improve our community, Lower School is engaged in a yearlong professional development partnership with author Stan Davis. To date, this collaboration has included the members of our entire division reading and discussing his book, Schools Where Everyone Belongs, monthly Skype sessions with the Lower School Administrative Team, and a survey completed by faculty/staff and students in grades 2-4. To help guide our future work with Mr. Davis, we needed to hear what our students felt about how they were being treated at school by their teachers and peers .

On Nov. 27, Lower School hosted Mr. Davis’ first visit to Ravenscroft. Administrators and team leaders from Lower and Middle School spent the day working closely with the author. We learned more about his research, discussed our school culture, and were introduced to practical strategies for helping strengthen students’ resiliency while reducing incidents of negative behavior.

We spent part of the day reviewing the results of our students’ survey responses, and we were gratified to hear Mr. Davis report that the information he collected was some of the most positive he has seen. A few of the responses we are most proud of are:

  • 99% of 4th-5th graders feel they have a positive relationship with one or more adults at school.
  • 95% of 4th graders and 88% of 5th graders believe the discipline system (rules and punishments) at our school is fair.
  • 96% of 4th graders and 88% of 5th graders said they feel valued and respected at school.
  • 99% of 2nd and 3rd graders report that they know our school rules, with 90% agreeing the rules are clear so everyone knows how to behave.
  • 90% of 2nd and 3rd graders would go to an adult at school if they had a problem they couldn’t solve themselves, with 90% reporting that things got better when they did.

While these numbers are certainly something to celebrate, we are also aware that we cannot become complacent by the positive results. In one exercise, we were asked to dig deeper into responses with questions like:

  • Why is it important that so many of our students feel connected to an adult at school?”  
  • “What did we do to bring about this very positive response?”
  • “How can we keep it up?”  

As Mr. Davis said, “When we do not understand our successes, we are unlikely to repeat them.”

Mr. Davis shared other ideas that resonated with our group. He challenged us to think more intentionally about the effects of the language we use when discussing “bullying” with children and offered alternative terminology:

Bullying => Peer mistreatment
Bully => Person who mistreats
Victim => Person who is mistreated
Bystander => Person who sees mistreatment

Many of us felt this change in language helped us to more clearly define the individuals and actions involved in the negative behaviors.

We were also asked to rethink how we respond to student “tattling.” The author suggested that we may be unintentionally sending the message that it is wrong to tell an adult when there is a concern. When we use words like “Thank you for letting me know” vs. “Was that a tattle?,” we communicate to children that we appreciate it when they come to us with a problem; we let them know that they have been heard.  Then we can either absorb the information, assist the child with strategies, or deal directly with what we heard.

Mr. Davis offered a framework for how we can continue to move forward with our goal of ensuring all members of the Lower School community are respecting themselves and each other. Our first step – the foundation – has been to recognize and look for ways to maintain what is working well. As we move into the second semester, we will begin to explore how we can improve our current practices through small, but powerful, changes.

Mr. Davis will return to Raleigh to continue his work with faculty and staff, as well as students.  He will also offer an evening presentation for parents on Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 at 7 p.m. in the Christina B. Jones Theatre. Our hope is that you will be able to join us in our goal to create “a school where everyone belongs.

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