Thursday, April 08, 2010

Children Make the Rules at This School

Children Make the Rules at This School
April 6, 2010 7:45 pm
Voice of San Diego

...Setting the rules is part of schoolwork at Innovations Academy, an unconventional K-8 charter school with roughly 200 students that practices what it calls "positive discipline." Children handle disputes together instead of running to the principal. They create rules adults might not agree with. The idea is children will become more independent, cooperative and thoughtful instead of merely compliant, learning the how and why of following the rules.

And the question is bigger than coping with fart jokes. The unusual Mission Valley school is testing out a competing theory to address an age-old problem: How to convince children to not act up.

Instead of adults laying down the law, Innovations has handed much of the power to the kids. Children at the school have confronted a classmate who was too loud during class. Middle schoolers brokered rules for when students can spin in rolling chairs. Third graders figured out how to share a single, coveted cardboard fort. And they agreed to stop teasing boys who were friends with girls.

Danielle Strachman, one of Innovations' directors, explains that they teach children the natural or logical consequences of their behavior. Running behind the swing set means you'll probably get kicked in the face. Talking over your classmates makes it hard for everyone else to hear. Classroom rules at Innovations aren't so different than elsewhere -- but what is unusual is the way they create the rules.

"It's easy to get kids to buy into these things" with rewards and punishments, Diamond said. "But what we want is for them to want these things."...

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