Our fellows are working on 4 different issue areas:
1. Creating Democratic Schools. The reality of teachers, parents and students should inform and guide decisions at all levels of the school system. This could mean a team works on building a PTO or School Family Council and/or works at the policy level to a push for School Family Councils that have real decision-making power.
2. Designing an Equity Framework. Advocate for a policy that requires the district to use an equity framework when developing policy and when making all major decisions so that sufficient resources are available to all students. These resources must include: high level, thought-provoking curriculum; strong teachers; and positive, trauma-free school climates. There may be some school based organizing but much of this work will be at the policy level.
3. Transforming Culture and Climate. Transform school culture and climate through using restorative approaches to community building and problem solving. (A fellow must have a school team for this part of the work to be effective.) This fellowship also involves providing feedback to the district on how to incorporate restorative language in policies and to embrace restorative principles internally and at all levels.
4. Fostering Social Justice Curriculum. Creating classrooms where learning is connected to student and community realities and building a movement of teachers who share their practices and push to reduce the barriers to doing this work in school.
Our greatest hope through this fellowship is to create democratic schools where teachers, parents and community members and students have the cohesion and say needed to create a real change in schools.
Research shows that the slow and humble building of relationships between teachers, parents and students reduces the gaps in culture and power between these groups, and leads to possibilities for: combined advocacy efforts, much deeper mutual understanding, and, in the long run, better instruction. The model we are exploring focuses on the necessity of building alliances within a school community. From other cities and historic models, we know these relationships can be transformed by:
* Increasing participation in school decision-making through a body like the PTO, the School Family Council, and the Union Chapter Committee
* Exploring teaching practices that address community issues, and include students in classroom decision-making
* Focusing on restorative justice, fairness, healing and mindfulness rather than suspensions and expulsions--that feed the school-to-prison pipeline
* Proactively connecting teachers with parents, students and communities around common concerns and advocating for their school
* Training and supporting parents to act as resources/mentors in classrooms and/or schools
* Making school buildings into community resources with: evening hours, space for adult education, after-school programming, sources of employment, and other activities
* Stimulating conversations with a school’s community (teachers, parents, students, administrators, community partners) about ways in which city and state policies affect their schools and their neighborhoods, and plan for the school they want and deserve
TDP fellows are people who have a vision, can figure out a place to get started, and can recruit other people from their school community to share in a project. Fellows can be teachers, paras, administrators, parents, or community members who are really passionate about shifting the culture of their school. Fellows are invited to find a partner or work in teams to work on some everyday problems together. Some examples include: getting students safely to and from school; having a calm, peaceful lunchroom and playground; networking to ensure that all students and/or families have supplies, food, clean clothes, access to health care, financial planning, GED training; or initiating a pilot project to jumpstart restorative practices in classrooms.
Each project should include a culminating event or product of some kind. A stipend in the amount of $1,800 is available. A fellow can pursue up to two fellowships in a school year. Other resources include some travel funds and some smaller funds to support projects through food, supplies or other event costs.
TDP gives fellows and their projects support by: sharing research on what works in other places; connecting projects to resources and partners, when possible; providing materials, ideas for meetings, videos, and readings. We stay involved with you throughout. We have meetings twice per month where fellows and other invited guests meet as a group to discuss project successes and challenges, receive trainings, share resources, surface larger advocacy and policy issues that TDP might need to take on.