May 31, 2019

Educators for Excellence-Boston Releases Teacher Recommendations on Improving School Culture, Launch Restorative Justice Campaign

May 31 (Boston) — Educators for Excellence-Boston (E4E-Boston), a teacher-led organization, published Thriving, Not Just Surviving, a set of teacher-authored recommendations for how schools in Boston and Massachusetts can create safe and welcoming environments for students and teachers. The paper was released last night at an event with more than 35 Boston educators, students and community activists.

“Last May a group of teachers, paraprofessionals, school psychologists and others who work with students spoke loudly to say that positive school culture needs to be a policy priority in Boston,” said E4E-Boston member Chastity Mathurin, a teacher at Boston Preparatory Academy and co-author of Thriving, Not Just Surviving. “It is so exciting to be back in the same room at Madison Park a year later and present real recommendations that we can act on and build a movement around. It is clear that what we are doing now is not working for students of color, so it’s time for us to try something new.”

Several speakers throughout the evening echoed Mathurin’s sentiment that this event was just the beginning of a larger movement to improve culture in schools throughout Boston, particularly with regard to how increased use of restorative justice practices can help achieve this goal. The term “restorative justice” refers to a non-punitive approach to discipline in which parties seek understanding so students can learn from their misbehavior and are then held accountable to heal the damage they have caused.  

Monique Symes, a teacher at McCormack Middle School in Boston and another of the paper’s co-authors, announced that E4E-Boston members will now be launching a campaign focused on one of the paper’s recommendations: advocating for increasing the level of restorative justice support provided to schools by the district through additional training and positions to implement restorative justice in Boston.

“At McCormack we are lucky to have a restorative justice coordinator who meets with staff one on one, trains us in restorative practices, facilitates community circles and answers questions,” said Symes. “Having an expert like her at our school has helped us weave restorative practices into every aspect of our school culture. I’ve learned a whole new way to approach teaching that helps us understand what worries students carry and how we as a community can support them. These practices transform the classroom, letting students know that they are welcome. More investment in coaches at the district level will allow more people to be trained and, in turn, train others so we can create safe and supportive school cultures across Boston.”

At the event, attendees discussed how building safe and supportive environments is crucial to fostering positive school cultures. E4E-Boston members and staff also facilitated basic trainings on restorative practices they can bring back to their schools.

“Tonight was such an encouraging first step toward building a coalition of like-minded advocates in Boston who support increasing the use of restorative practices,” said Brandy Fluker-Oakley, Executive Director of E4E-Boston. “We are so grateful to the hundreds of educators who have shared their voices on the critically important issue of school culture, and the 10 teachers who came together to write Thriving, Not Just Surviving. We look forward to building new partnerships with city and district officials, administrators, educators and other restorative justice advocates to create a shared language around the implementation of restorative justice in Boston to ensure that schools are welcoming, inclusive and supportive communities.”

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