Schuylkill IU 29: Improving Behaviors to Focus on Academic Progress

In Schuylkill County Intermediate Unit 29’s Maple Avenue Campus, students receive targeted schooling in autistic support, emotional support, and special education. Many are enrolled temporarily, as part of a plan to address behavior problems while staying on track academically.

For three years, a method for resolving classroom conflicts has evolved into a school culture that keeps the focus on learning. Students who return to home schools are equipped with the tools to avoid clashes with classmates and teachers.

Campus teachers and administrators have been trained in “restorative practices,” a positive approach that incorporates teachers into working with students to improve behavior. With a focus on building mutual respect, teachers call regular class meetings, called “circles,” to foster communications and understanding of different perspectives. Students and anyone harmed by their negative behavior are active participants, striving to repair the harm done to individuals and the school.

“Whenever there are hard feelings, it’s a way to deal with those feelings and to talk about what could have happened, instead,” says Director of Special Education Debra Arnold. “Everything gets back into the learning mode.”

With fewer and shorter disruptions, students can maintain academic progress before returning to their home schools or as they continue their Maple Avenue classes. They also learn “rethink the actions that they do,” says Arnold.

“When they go back into the school district, they’ve learned to take a step back,” she says. “They’ve learned to apologize, or to say, ‘This is what I should have done.’ Or they even have the ability to stop and think before taking a hurtful action. Many students are here because of a behavior, so teaching them something to be able to deal with behaviors is extremely positive.”

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