By Jennifer Telecky, Assistant Principal, Hutchinson Middle School
The current 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Hutchinson Middle School (HMS) have never experienced a “normal” year of middle school. During this time when students are growing at a tremendous rate, physically, socially, and emotionally, they are also now living through a time in history unlike anything they have seen. As we try to return to normalcy and get back on track, schools everywhere are increasing their support for academics. HMS is also supporting students socially, emotionally and behaviorally through Restorative Practices and through the implementation of the REACH program at the middle school level.
Hutchinson Middle School has been working to become a Restorative School, using expectations and restorative practices to handle conflict and discipline issues. What are Restorative Practices? It is a way of developing relationships and community, as well as repairing community when harm is done. After conflict or harm, Restorative Practices provide a way of thinking about, talking about, and responding to issues and problems by involving all participants to discuss their feelings and opinions, identify what happened, describe how it affected everyone, and find solutions to make things right.
At HMS, we have been talking with students about behavioral expectations at the middle school. Because students have not been in the school building and classroom consistently over the past two years they have missed out on gradual learning of school norms. These conversations are helping us all get back to the basics: being kind even if you aren’t friends, how to respectfully walk through the hallway, how to work with a partner, and how to resolve conflicts.
Parents could also use the same five guiding questions when helping their kids work through conflict. These questions are: What happened? What were you thinking at the time? What have you thought about since? Who has been harmed? What will you do to repair the harm?
This school year, Hutchinson Middle School implemented the REACH program. This program has been a successful part of the high school for 14 years. REACH’s acronym, Relationships, Education, Accountability, Character and Hard Work are the cornerstone of the program. Part of the REACH philosophy is Believing in the ability of every student to overcome academic and personal obstacles to achieve success. This is exactly what REACH does – works with and alongside our middle school students, as well as their families, who may be looking for that extra support to be successful. We currently have 3 REACH classes (one for each grade level) that meet during HMS’s WIN (What I Need) time. Already, we are seeing success and hope in students who have not experienced it.
We are confident that by implementing Restorative Practices and the REACH program, our students will get back on track academically as well as growing socially, emotionally and behaviorally as middle level learners.