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Conflict Resolution

When I was in school, “conflict resolution” took the form of teacher-shuts-it-down-with-threats/punishments to keep class time lesson-focused.

As I studied progressive and alternative forms of education, I came across many approaches to dealing with conflicts between students. There were “J.C.s” (Judicial Committees) comprised of students, essentially local courts. There were teacher trainings on using non-violent communication, with the idea that the teacher then intervenes to mediate/manage conflicts. There were programs where students were trained as mediators and then designated as support people for their classmates to request help from. All kinds of things…

The ALC-NYC program came out of a Change Up meeting, with the intention from staff of shifting responsibility for culture creation further from staff onto students. We have the steps posted on a door in our hallway, and the form (keep reading) available on our website. Here’s the process:

Roar! I’m having a conflict!*

*or I notice a cultural pattern I’d like to upgrade/address

STEP 1: Breath. Decide how you would like to communicate to the person you are in conflict with. Attempt to communicate with them. If this doesn’t work, continue to…

STEP 2: Ask for support. Find someone to help you communicate with the person you are in a conflict with. [implicit: staff are available, but they will probably encourage you to ask another student first :)] If this still doesn’t work, continue to…

STEP 3: Log onto the website and fill out a Culture Committee [CC] form. An email will be sent to students and staff who have agreed to serve as the CC. They will schedule a meeting (usually immediately or the next day) to discuss the situation and determine what next steps are appropriate. At least three CC members must be present for the meeting. The CC discusses the form–usually with the person who filed it–and decides what/how they want to respond before bringing in the others involved in the conflict.

Just having the process set up has meant that most conflicts are resolved by kids during STEP 2. As is to be expected, facilitators initially had to stay mindful to break their pattern of responding to conflicts and instead remind students of the process (then leave them space to use it). The process ONLY works if it’s used consistently and taken seriously (not a problem at ALC-NYC, but it could potentially be if not implemented with student support). Also worth noting is a pattern: some new kids may get multiple CCs convened on them while they are acculturating. They may respond defensively to their first CC (relating it to shamings/punishments at conventional school and so not expecting their peers to discuss how to compassionately and responsibly support them). They may call a couple of CCs when they first realize that they have the power to do so. All these things are fairly normal (and predictable).

A [long] video from what I found to be a powerful and thoughtful CC is posted here. The meeting was convened when a student with a history of disrupting meetings, ignoring the stop-rule, and failing to respect others’ boundaries had worn the group’s patience thin one day. The consequence the CC determined proved to be effective (the student’s behavior improved after he realized the consequence was not just an empty threat), though other students later showed that they (surprise!) needed different consequences for similar decisions (which our super-agile CC was able to address).

Now if only society offered such platforms for us to address concerns about our culture…

Answer to “Are your facilitators ever students?” OR What Hamlet has to do with ALC

Monday feels like a really long time ago. We had visitors from ALC Mosaic (who decided to come to school even though they were on spring break), a visiting week student, Tomis 🙂 , and some parents, so things were extra busy. Like four-field-trip-week busy.

Which is how I prefer things, but cramming alll that living into a few days seems to warp how I remember time.

Like in Memento! Ok, not really. But @timotree screened Memento today, because he saw it recently for the first time and was excited to share/talk about it with people here. I watched what I could between poster-drawing, skit planning with @charlotte , and an ice skating field trip (brilliantly suggested by @lillaw, who coached @failspy and I while skating circles around us). I did notice the notes @ryanshollenberger and @timotree were taking on the film, intending to discuss it with @nhoopee during their cooking class. Part of me really wanted to stick around for the discussion, but I’m glad I went outside to trudge through the snow and laugh while attempting to skate. Also, now I’m more familiar with Laskar (the skating rink) and so will feel more confident bringing a big group there next week.

Yesterday, we didn’t do acrobalance, because Yoni was in Israel and people here were suffering from various aches and pains. Charlotte and Javair played with me a little bit, but I noticed that I missed the challenge. Next week, I’m going to either recruit someone to practice with me for an hour or go to a yoga class after school.

It worked out that Yoni wasn’t in, though, because my friend Craig visited to offer two theater-based workshops. Craig has been a close friend of mine for years, is a professor at the university (in Pennsylvania) that my sister now attends, and has contagiously passionate about theater since forever. He offered a theater workshop where @timotree @thewitchqueen908 @failspy @lillaw @fireballdeath @ryanshollenberger @charlotte and I explored audience-actor-stage dynamics, practiced deepening our awareness of and responsiveness to our fellow actors, played with dynamically introducing our selves, and performed snippets from Hamlet’s speech to actors on how to act. [Videos will be posted when I’m not sharing internet with everyone else trying to blog.] Interestingly, the bit I got was about how actors should trust their intuition, support each other, and suit their actions to their words…ALC philosophy much? 🙂 After, Craig offered a philosophy of theater discussion, and when I left the room he was teaching Javair a structure for improv clowning.

Monday it occurred to me that our wall art needs updating, but Monday I was super busy with business meetings, brainstorming sessions, internet-y things, and a Spawn Point upgrade discussion. Tuesday and Wednesday there were field trips which left school quiet(ish). I stayed back to let other adults have adventures, so I worked on new posters both those days. One pair of posters illustrates the outcomes of the Spawn Point Upgrade discussion (aka: Why do we Spawn?). The other pair plays with words, characters, and ideas from the card game Coup which may have surpassed Werewolves as group-obsession-inducing card game of ALC-NYC. It felt really good to do multi-step drawing projects, and I found myself inspired with lots of new ideas for changing the walls. I’ll probably make more posters between ice skating and pickle making (as per @thewitchqueen908 @agilealfie and @likeaboss ‘s request) next week.

<3 and snowdrops

Why I’m cool with day-long Doctor Who marathons…

Yesterday, Adin came in and offered to host a 5-hour Doctor Who marathon. The projector glow mingled with the hum of recorded voices, and the resulting spell pulled passers-by through the door to the Red Room. Some kids powered through the whole marathon while others dropped in and out as they pleased. I was invited in but declined, citing my low screen endurance.

I did end up sitting outside the door once most of the kids were inside. It’s a thing I do often: bring my own task to the edge of whatever else is happening, just to listen for reactions, discussions, patterns, opportunities. My task this time was to sort through the thoughts and feelings that watching nine young people spend a whole, sunny day in a dark room brought up for me. In an article about Netflix and binge-watching television shows (which are now generally written more as chapters in complex stories than distinct episodes featuring consistent characters), I read how a social anthropologist explained the draw of these shows in terms of consumer desires rather than show content: “We’re actually craving the long narratives that today’s best television series can provide. Instead of dealing with our life’s stresses by zoning out, we’d rather become engrossed in an entirely different (and fictional) world.” I dove into the internets, reading about inventions inspired by science fiction, how different kinds of fiction consumption impact theory of mind, what criteria has been used to distinguish “good tv” from “bad tv.”

After all of it, I believe pretty much the same things I did when I started. Stories help us make sense of the world and each other. They can help us learn from experiences that our bodies are not actually experiencing, empathize with those different from us, and open ourselves to ways of thinking that are not our own. Fiction stories can encourage creativity and philosophic ponderings. Mysteries and puzzles (including predicting what will happen next or playing at creating alternate endings) present opportunities to practice attention-to-details, exploring connections between causes and effects, and examining the plausibility of various theories. Keeping track of lists of characters and settings, along with their histories and relationships (Lord of the Rings?!?) takes sustained focus and declarative memory. Passively consuming stories pre-illustrated on screens bright enough to strain retinas, while in a position that puts stress on human spines doesn’t appeal to me at all. And honestly, I would worry seeing someone I care about engaging in such behavior without intention or balancing it with other activities.

But after thinking a one day marathon, hosted and attended intentionally, with both reflections and active, creative games after, really shouldn’t and doesn’t worry me.

Students scheduled an afternoon screening of two Doctor Who episodes today. Right now, I’m sitting on the floor outside the Red Room (where all but one student is presently sitting…the show paused at this moment for another 5-minute-philosophy discussion with Mary). The human just denied having slaves in her time and species; the Time Lord countered by asking who made her clothes; I wondered how many of the kids would take the cue and question their own clothes. But now isn’t a good time to interrupt and ask…they just received some kind of a clue–something about breaking circles to allow captives to sing–and they’re busy puzzling out what it means. I’m happy to leave them to it.


Tools and Practices: Set-the-Week in ALCNY

Last week’s STW board!

Every Monday we have a meeting called Set-The-Week (STW for short) where we schedule our classes, events, and trips for the week. During the meeting, we record these “offerings” on a whiteboard with columns for each weekday. After the meeting, the offerings get posted on a daily schedule board in the lobby, on individual kanbans of interested kanban-ers, and in the google doc linked to here!

Filling in the daily schedule board!

This makes the plan for the week easily accessible to anyone in the space designing their week and seeking inspiration.