On Tuesday, July 26, Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose came to UAGC to discover more about our approach to social-emotional learning. As part of the Department of Education's efforts to provide more support to schools as they move away from suspensions, Ms. Rose was meeting with principals at "schools that are known for this" and was interested in seeing how an entire school takes on the responsibility of growing and developing students, rather than pushing that responsibility off on guidance counselors or deans.
At Green Careers, we have built a reputation of equity for all students. Rather than pushing students who are struggling out of the classroom - say, to a dean's office or a special class - we ensure that each student has the support they need to be successful with their peers in an integrated classroom.
All too often, according to Rose, these sorts of supports depend on the vision of a single principal. At UAGC, these supports are part of the Learning Cultures model developed by NYU professor Cynthia McCallister, so systems of support exist that are implemented by all members of the school community. While former principal Kerry Decker worked to establish many of these supports, it is the work of the entire community - students, teachers, and parents - who implement them and sustain them, even as leaders change.
Principal Madeleine Ciliotta-Young, herself a former UAGC teacher, discussed the power of all members of the school community taking responsibility for each other's learning. "When it was just the teachers trying to support the students, we couldn't keep up," she said. "What we did, through Keepers of the Culture, was open opportunities for students to support each other in using Responsibility-Based Self Control so they could achieve success together."
Rose was able to meet with some of the Keepers of the Culture (KoC), both leaders and students who have received support.
Eric Ramirez commented, "I never used to notice my behaviors - working with KoC I noticed the same behaviors got in my way over and over and over again. I made a promise to change each of those behaviors, and then slowly worked to change them with KoC's help. I could just start crossing off what I wasn't doing no more and see that I was changing."
Bianca Inesta, a Keeper, followed that "when you take away the behaviors it,"
"It really motives students" Yujeiry Baez, a fellow Keeper, chimed in.
Eric added, "Yeah, I kept making the same promise over and over, not to fight, and then one day I walked away from a confrontation and I realized if I can change this one, I can change that one."
"Yeah, it motivates them" Bianca continued, "It feels good, seeing people change. But they change at their own pace."
"The point is to try to help kids before they get in trouble. When they meet with KoC they think they're in trouble, but they're not - yet!" Eric commented with a twinkle in his eye. "Now that I'm a Keeper, I work to convince them that we're here to help each other."
The visit concluded with a stop in our school's learning garden, where students are prepping produce to sell at the school's farmers market (Wednesday 12 to 2). Students and staff were excited to discuss the great work being done at UAGC, and were glad Ms. Rose was able to visit and continue to build connections between schools as we strive to allow for all students to grow into the people they want to become.