Unitive Education Workshop June 26-30

Message from Sylvia Clute, President
Alliance for Unitive Justice

Teachers for Social Justice:

Knowing of your interest/commitment to schools that provide a joyful adventure in learning, instead of a system based on hierarchy and punishment, you may be interested in a “unitive education” workshop that Laurie Koth and I are offering the last week in June.

I have spoken to several of you about my work within the restorative justice movement that has spanned a couple of decades called “unitive justice.” This includes comparing 12 structures of the punitive justice system to 12 structures of unitive justice. For some time, I have realized that these structures are not limited to the legal structure, they can be applied to other endeavors and professions.

Laurie is a Ph.D. candidate in the VCU School of Education. She is assisting me in adapting this material to education, in what we are calling “unitive education.” Unitive education is grounded on certain principles that emphasize the following:

· Community strength and self-empowerment.
· Consensual participation and equality/inclusiveness.
· Values, such as trust, honesty, discernment and lovingkindness.
· Achieving mutually beneficial outcomes.

Laurie and I are offering an intensive 5 day workshop June 26-30 at the Friends Meeting House in Richmond that will be specially designed for teachers and school administrators. I know some teachers were interested but unable to take the course on Restorative Justice in Education that I am teaching May 31 – June 9 in the VCU School of Education because they are not yet out of school. This workshop is timed for them. The workshop does not include the opportunity to design an RJ school program as the VCU course does, but it will include much of the same material AND it will be tailored specifically to address unitive education.

The circle facilitation process being taught in the workshop is based on unitive principles. Using episodes of conflict to discover the underlying epicenter of brokenness out of which the conflict arose, root causes are addressed and mutually beneficial action is achieved. It teaches new skills that apply in school, at home, in life.

Laurie has taught English/Language Arts at the middle and high school levels and in an alternative high school. Her doctoral research interests include the school-to-prison pipeline and ways to disrupt it, including culturally relevant pedagogy and restorative justice.   
You can register here.

Update: Chesterfield County to Reduce ELL Class Sizes

Today the Richmond Times Dispatch has reported that Chesterfield County school leaders are supporting a plan that will add 28 full-time positions for English Language Learner classes. This is reassuring news, after the March 17 article reporting some troubling remarks about immigrant students from Dorothy Jaeckle, Chesterfield County’s top political leader.

In response to that article, the Richmond Teachers for Social Justice posted an open letter to the editor (below). We are relieved to learn that the attitudes expressed by Jaeckle did not prevent the school board from directing resources to the county's rapidly growing ELL student population.

We are also pleased to learn that the county will shift toward the more inclusive model of educating ELL students in their home schools, rather than ESOL centers.

We hope that all school divisions will recognize the social and cognitive benefits of inclusive models, not only for their ELL students, but for all students attending culturally diverse schools.

We also hope to continue seeing expansions of support for our growing ELL population.

Open Letter

This is an open letter to the editor of Richmond Times Dispatch, in response to an article published March 17, 2017, which reported that Dorothy Jaeckle, chairwoman of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, recommended against directing resources toward growing classes of English-language learning (ELL) students.

To the Editor of Richmond Times Dispatch,

Unless and until this country decides to turn its back on public schools and what public schools represent—education for everyone, regardless of race, religion, language, national origin, gender identity, sexuality, or financial status—Chesterfield County Public Schools, as with all school districts, will serve an increasingly diverse student body. This diversity presents great opportunities and great challenges for our schools.  The increasing diversity of our schools  is neither new nor easily addressed, but it is central to the mission of all American public school systems. Students enter school with a range of needs.  Some come to class with no breakfast and no warm clothes for winter.  Some arrive without a command of English and with parents who have little formal education.  During any school year, some students will become homeless, and some students will find that their disability—diagnosed or not—engenders serious social and academic adjustment issues.  These kinds of students are typical in Chesterfield County and, indeed, in Richmond, Hanover, Henrico, New Kent, Louisa, and Goochland.   These challenges may lead some to characterize diversity as inconvenient, expensive, and exasperating.  However, these are all our children, and through our tax dollars and our commitment to our community, they are our obligation—and our privilege--to teach. Moreover, we must not ignore the fact that all children bring to schools, and to the world, both needs and talents. Diversity is a strength, for schools and communities.

The recent conversation in Chesterfield regarding school resources in relation to the merit of English learners is disturbing.  Some comments made misrepresent English language learners as less legitimate and less deserving than native English speakers. Public schools serve all learners, whether or not they are native speakers, and regardless of their immigration status. In addition, it is wrong to assume that everyone who does not speak English is in the US illegally.

Our communities are peopled with a variety of individuals, and when some require extra help—especially some of our children-- it is our civic and moral obligation, as a democracy built on public schools as avenues of opportunity, to offer that help.  It is the most patriotic and American thing we do and, in the long run, it is also the most economically and socially advantageous.  Through public schools we create literate and capable adults, and our community is richer for it.

Richmond Teachers for Social Justice


Time to Take Action!

We had a great meeting last night at Freeman High School. Around 40 teachers, pre-service teachers, teacher educators, and community members attended. For those of you who couldn't make it out, here is a brief overview of what we discussed and how you can get involved. 

All the rapid political changes happening nationally and locally mean there are many important actions we need to take as educators, community members, and civic agents. We also need to partner with organizations doing similar work, speak up to our state and national representatives, and reach out to people looking for ways they can take action. 

Here are a few of the actions Richmond TSJ will be working on in the coming months:

1. Supporting undocumented students and families
2. Coordinating and promoting a monthly, national teach-In on public education 
3. Co-organizing a Protest Art Workshop for teachers in April with Art 180
4. Planning a LOVE Public Schools Concert in the spring to promote public education
5. Fundraising (T-shirts, etc)

We are looking for people to join these efforts. If you are interested in getting involved in any of these, please email richmondtsj@gmail.com

Rather than hold regular RVA TSJ meetings, we will be supporting these focused actions and events. We will all still be able to come together at events like the workshops and concert. In the meantime we are encouraging members (and prospective members!) to use the time that would otherwise be devoted to meetings to work on these efforts.

Questions? Please don't hesitate to email richmondtsj@gmail.com 

Meeting tonight (Feb 1)

Here are the details for our meeting tonight (Open to all!)

Location: Freeman High School, Room 107 

Time: 4:30 to 6:30 tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb 1)

We will talk about several actions you can get involved with, locally and nationally. 

We hope to see you there. Please forward this post and invite others!

National Teach-In Tues, Jan 31

We are organizing a nationwide Teach-In for this Tuesday, Jan 31 to oppose the confirmation of Betsy DeVos and reaffirm our commitment to public education.

The idea is that, rather than striking, teachers will set aside time to teach a lesson on the importance of public schools. There is a page on the website with lesson plans you can use so you don’t have to create one before Tuesday.

If you want to take the next step, document your action (e.g, photo, video clip, short blog post, the lesson activity you used, student testimonial). Consider sending it to us (and your U.S. senators). With your permission, we will post it on the website to build the case for why public education matters!

Also, please feel free to email any activities you design prior to the Teach-In. We will post them on our resources page, giving participants more ways to engage with students.

DeVos’s first confirmation hearing confirmed many of our fears, not only related to her lack of experience in public education but also her history of supporting education programs that undermine public schools. We believe that Tues, January 31 (the day of her confirmation vote) is an opportune time to take a stand for public education, both to oppose her confirmation but also to contribute to the long-term national movement to counter the ever-increasing attempts to privatize public education.
This is the first of what will become a monthly Teach-In on Democracy -- the 4th Tuesday of every month. Publicschoolsmatter.org will be a space where we can continue to share resources for teaching about democracy for each of these Teach-Ins. So please consider creating and sharing lesson materials other teachers can use beyond Tuesday as well.
We need to spread the word across the country quickly so please share this post, the link, and/or the FB event widely!
Now is the time to fight for our public schools!