On Teaching…

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Disrupt the School-to-Prison Pipeline

On August 9th, I sat all day in a classroom, scribbling notes on such topics as fire drills, sexual harassment, emergency procedures, and boundary-setting with students. 

But I wasn't getting ready for the opening of school.  I was preparing to work as a prison volunteer.


At the training center for the Arkansas Department of Corrections, I stared at the cinder-block walls and thought about the ways our schools resemble prisons. Alas, many writers and researchers have sounded off about the frightening connectivity between these two institutions.


Take a look at this infographic from the ACLU which gives us some stark facts about the school-to-prison pipeline:




Our factory-model mass education system chugs on, housing and sorting our students, often controlling and restricting kids instead of empowering and encouraging them. Even more disturbingly, children of color are targeted in our punitive systems.

As teachers, we each can work to make our classrooms and schools more humanistic, reflective places.  Years ago, in my search for models of such classrooms, I found out about the Responsive Classroom®, an enlightening philosophy now promoted by the Center for Responsive Classrooms. For several years, I trained teachers in this philosophy where classrooms serve as thoughtful, reflective, and peaceful places that nurture individuals.  


Here's the way "time-out" is implemented in this type of democratic classroom. "Time-out is for everyone!"




It is up to teachers to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.


prison guard shift change —

outside the gate the dragonfly

corrects its course


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