We believe in the power of growing relationships to build a movement for just schools.
Teachers Unite’s educator-led school partnerships are tailored to fit schools’ needs. Our goal is to support the development of a sustainable, collaborative leadership team among staff, parents and teachers that is committed to transforming its school’s culture through the adoption of restorative justice practices. Through partnering with schools, we hope to provide practical skills and encourage sustainability, build collaborative leadership and decision-making, and engage school community members in school-based and system-wide advocacy.
Schools and organizations that partner with Teachers Unite are asking for more than a professional development training. Partnering with Teachers Unite is your group's statement of support for our mission and your decision to start organizing. We are building a movement to end the School-to-Prison Pipeline and help dismantle the Prison Industrial Complex. We believe that a workshop alone won't make that happen, but working together and building organizational power can!
Interested in building power at your school with the support of a Teachers Unite partnership? When you reach out, our Organizing Council will identify two TU facilitators (active and/or retired NYC public school teachers) to work with your school. They will speak with you to learn more about your school and your goals. Together you will create a partnership agreement with the plan for the year. TU and the partner school will each commit to their responsibilities outlined in the plan.
Write to info [at] teachersunite [dot] net to learn more about partnering with Teachers Unite.
Through a Teachers Unite’s partnership, which included two PD sessions led by TU members, staff and students at M.S. 324 have begun to use community-building restorative circles, which are starting to create a culture around the way students and teachers talk to one another. Explains special education teacher and Teachers Unite member Becky Del Toro, "Students are participating in difficult conversations in a different way than before; they’re really listening to one another and trying to understand each other’s emotions—they’re not just pretending to listen."
The ripples of this work are felt in the academic classroom as students learn better how to agree or disagree and be respectful. Circles have been pivotal in engaging the students that "slip through the cracks." One student who never spoke during a circle listed the practice as his favorite part of the school year. Crediting their egalitarian nature, Becky says, “Nobody can be on the outside of a circle.”
M.S. 324 is now looking at "Tier Two" restorative practices, thinking about ways to create accountability and address conflict and harm outside of traditional punitive responses.
Part of UNMS’s partnership with Teachers Unite included a community building workshop led by TU member E.M. and several of her high school students from Bronx Academy of Letters, who run community building circles with 9th grade students at their own school. One afternoon, E.M. and 18 high school students took a field trip to UNMS to lead a workshop with UNMS students. They modeled different activities, talking about how and why circles are effective and how UNMS students could use them in their school. The workshop highlighted that this work is most powerful when it’s rooted in young people.
UNMS is now regularly using a student-led fairness committee model as an accountability process, which they developed based on additional support from students and TU members at the James Baldwin School.
Teachers Unite partnered with Bronx Lab during the 2014-2015 school year as the school started thinking about what it would mean for them to build a restorative school culture. Special education teacher and Teachers Unite member Nilda Dontaine reflected on the process:
At first, the idea of bringing RJ into our school was simply great and exciting. However, early on in the implementation planning it became very scary and intimidating because much of RJ is about affecting the hearts and minds of the collective. It requires real school climate and culture changes. Changing school climate and culture is a difficult and challenging task. TU helped us set realistic short and long term goals in consideration of our hopes and fears in taking on such a sensitive and thought provoking task. TU's help with goal setting not only focused us but also helped relieve the anxiety that comes with leading genuine school climate and culture change. TU acknowledges that RJ implementation is a slow process because it involves the progression of a community. TU guided us in doing as much or as little as our community could take in at any given time without getting discouraged or losing sight of our RJ goals and objectives. Because TU nurtured us through the first year, we will begin the second year of our RJ work with a foundation to build upon and with a lot more confidence to advance forward our RJ program. I foresee a school- wide community-building program and a significant student-led RJ effort.