Our School Before Laura
I was hired mid-year as principal of an elementary school and when I arrived, the school did not have a consistent system in place that made sense. It was really chaotic. While there were pockets of really great things, they weren't happening in a cohesive way. It made me feel drained and out of control and lacking purpose. I watched kids line up for lunch and they were all over the place - yelling and pushing each other down while the adults were yelling, “Hey, stop that. Hey, come back!” and blowing their whistles. In the course of a 20 minute lunch everyone had unraveled and by the end would say, “Oh my God, thank God that's over!” And it wasn’t just lunchtime. In classrooms, in the hallway, in the way we lined up and the way we entered the library - there was no area where there was a clear expectation that everyone understood and followed. In classrooms we were losing learning minutes because there were not clear, consistent expectations. Teachers were spending a lot of time redirecting when they could have been teaching. The adults were frazzled, I was frazzled and the kids were frazzled!
Additionally, there also was more of a focus on punitive than positive. There was no thought around how we bring individuals back together? How do we have some learning happen with it? How do we have healing? How do we have growth happen? We needed a whole team approach to positive behavior at our school.
I had used PBIS at my previous school so I knew what we needed. In my mind, PBIS brings a lot of peace. When students understand what the expectations are and they are able to do it (and not have an adult yell at them or have a whistle whistle blown at them) that is where you get peace in a school setting. We also needed Restorative Practices to create a space for community and healing.
How Our School is Now
With Laura’s training, in a single year we fully implemented PBIS and trained our teachers in Restorative Practices. Since working with Laura, I would describe my school as much more calm, cohesive, positive, and even JOYFUL!
I believe our culture changed when we began taking the time to do restorative circles, allowing everyone to be heard and valued. Teachers began realizing that with Restorative Practices, students weren’t “getting off the hook.” The consequence might not be something punitive like missing recess, but instead it was the act of sitting across from a person that I care about and working through the conflict. It allows children to experience other people’s feelings and have empathy. It’s not just about a list of rules to follow. If students have a disagreement, they are held accountable to resolve it, to look each other in the eyes and have a meaningful connection. I believe using Restorative Practices is much more likely to keep behavior from happening again than if someone yells at a student or makes them sit out for 10 minutes of recess. That is because the student doesn’t have to deal with how their behavior impacts others. With Laura’s training, our school has grown by leaps and bounds simply by learning to have these restorative conversations that make a school come together as a true community.
I have also noticed growth in our parent community because Laura trained us how to bring parents in when issues arise. In the restorative process, parents also feel acknowledged and tell me that they are so happy we took the time to teach their child how to interact and resolve problems with others. They understand that this skill set will be something their child carries with them into their adulthood. Yes, at school we learn math, reading, writing, science, and all of our core curriculum, but we are also here to mold children to help them understand what does it mean to be an empathetic person? How am I a productive individual in my classroom and in my playground and in my community? The more we have those conversations, the deeper that learning goes.
Since working with Laura and implementing PBIS & Restorative Practices our school has a calm sense of connectedness. I have had fewer students coming to the office this year for behavioral issues, and when they do come, their teachers make a point to send them to have a conversation, not a consequence.
What is it like to work with Laura?
Laura has an inviting, open, and trustworthy way about her. We had a connection right off the bat that made me feel that she was genuinely wanting to partner with me. It allowed me to let my guard down and say, “Hey, here are some problems and I need help.” I said to myself, “I like this person. I'm connecting with her,” I trusted her eyesight, her reflection, her input and her knowledge base and we were able to have real deep conversations around the issues that left me feeling encouraged, often by reminding me of skills that I already had!
Having someone of Laura’s caliber is really important because not only is she very knowledgeable about PBIS and Restorative Practices, she genuinely believes in it. Laura wants schools to be great places for students, I think that's her core. She loves kids and she’s not doing this just because it’s a business, She’s choosing this because she has the expertise as a therapist, a teacher, and a district administrator. She’s worked with kids of varied backgrounds and has seen what this work can do - it's calming to everybody.
Laura’s training is awesome and really powerful. I appreciate that she offers a layered approach to her training with clearly delineated video lessons and coaching. Her video lessons are short, attainable and to the point without wasting people's time. The information is broken down into little morsels so that you can digest it with your staff and understand it. She combines her video lessons with online coaching. It was incredible to have a qualified, certificated person that I had access to, not only talk about PBIS in general, but she allowed us to ask really specific questions. She carried me with a couple kids from beginning to end and stuck with me to figure it out.
As a principal, I don't get very many people that I can brainstorm with and have as my thought partner. In our busy world and role, it's hard to get a person to slow down to give you their attention for an hour and put the spotlight on one area that you want to work on. Coaching time with Laura was a gift because it allowed me to probe more deeply into some solutions both to help individual students and to address global schoolwide issues so that we could create a culture where we focus on the positive and build students up.
In my career I've participated in a multitude of professional development and I found Laura’s training to be meaningful, powerful and it helped me guide a school in one year a hundred steps up the ladder that it would've taken a lot longer to do. I think it's worth every penny. To get time with Laura is a gift.
Melissa Becker, Principal