If you haven’t set foot in the Middle School recently, there are a number of new initiatives you might not be aware of that are helping to build a strong culture of inclusiveness.

Community Circles

For about ten minutes of every school day, every student is engaged in this brief community-building exercise. Teachers check in with students and ask them to share how they are feeling that day, or to weigh in on a topic of general interest. “As a result, students know one another better and their teachers know them better,” says Glasner. “We really want every student to know they are valued, and that they have a voice here.”

Restorative Practices

To reduce disciplinary actions that remove students from the classroom, the Middle School has employed what’s known as “restorative practices” for the past three years, with positive results. “We believe that every experience is a learning experience,” says Glasner. “Using restorative practices means working with students, instead of doing things to students. We want them in class and learning.” The change in disciplinary philosophy has resulted in a reduction of suspensions.

Family Engagement

New traditions like the school-wide Thanksgiving dinner celebration, which Glasner brought with him from his previous post in New York City, bring together families from all different backgrounds. The school and PTO supply the turkeys, and families bring their favorite dishes to share at this popular even that fills the cafeteria each fall. The school also hosts a well-attended event for boys and their male role models, featuring open gym, healthy snacks, board games and more. A parent advisory group was formed this year, modeled on one at the High school. Says Glasner, “It gives parents an opportunity to have more in-depth conversations with us about breaking down barriers so that we can meet every student’s needs.”

Originally published in Shaker Life, Winter 2018.