Sunday, November 28, 2010

Culture of Care PD in Troy, New York - 2nd visit

One December 2nd and 3rd I will be visiting the Enlarged School District of Troy, New York. This is my second visit to the school district. I introduced the Culture of Care to educators in the district in August.

At this visit I will be visiting schools in the district to observe and share some ideas. Also I will meet with the same leaders I met with in August to get an update on how implementation of the Culture of Care in their schools is going and to create an action plan for the next five months.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New book addresses bullying

I have just completed writing a review of the book Bully by Teresa Milbrodt. I wrote the book review at the request of restorative justice colleague Matthew Kuelhorn.

Book Review

Milbrodt, T. (2009). Bully. Gunnison, CO: Life Skoolz. Pp. 136. Available at

The author and publisher of this book are relatively new to the fields of restorative justice, bullying, and school violence. In an era when educators and those interested in education are focusing on the problem of bullying in schools, the author and publisher are to be commended for writing a contemporary and practical hands-on book as a response to a current issue.

My review of this book is influenced by my special interest in the field of restorative justice. I am currently interested in developing evidence-based restorative practices for schools. At the same time, I am working on the implementation of the theory of a culture of care in schools as a research and professional development project, related to improving the educational outcomes for Latino/Hispanic, African-American, and Native American students and am, therefore, interested in how restorative practices can improve outcomes for students who are minoritized, racialized, and marginalized.

This book contributes to the existing literature in the fields of restorative justice, bullying, and school violence by presenting what might be called case studies regarding a female student and male student who are harmed by bullying. These case studies or stories focus not only on those harmed by bullying but also those causing the harm, as well as onlookers, educators (particularly teachers and counselors), administrators, and members of the affected community.

This book is divided into five sections, which end with “Reflect Now” lessons or practices: (a) listening, (b) empathy, (c) talking story, (d) talking circles, and (e) restorative justice. These lessons are “designed to teach community building skills,” specifically by learning “how to listen, how to empathize, and how to tell our own story.”

Weaved into the book’s storyline are lessons aimed at improving community building skills in the areas of listening, emphathizing, and telling our own story. These skills are presented as the foundation for creating a new mindset about how students, educators, administrators, parents, and community members respond to wrongdoing and conflict in schools. This new mindset serves as the foundation for enhancing school communities by participating in the restorative practices outlined in the book: talking circles and restorative conferences.

Although this book does a good job of practically applying the theory that relationships do matter in schools and creating and maintaining positive and caring relationships are at the core of building the capacity of students and teachers to solve problems related to bullying nonviolently, the ideas presented in this book have not been subjected to systematic research and peer review of the results so that these ideas can be relied upon as being evidence-based by educators, policymakers, academics, and the wider society. However, I would note the ideas presented in this book are consistent with the evidence-based work I have published in two ways: First, building the capacity of students and teachers to respond to discipline problems such as bullying is important, and second, responding to the problem of bullying in the context of where it occurs and involving all those who were involved is crucial.

As I reviewed this book I noted that the stories are illustrated, particularly the central characters in the stories presented. However, I was disappointed to note that all of the central characters appear to be White. Given the multicultural nature of present day schools across America, I urge the author, illustrator, and publisher to make certain the any future editions of the book contain illustrations of central characters that represent the wide range of cultures present in our schools today.

I recommend this book for students, parents, teachers, counselors, administrators, and those people interested in education. This latest contribution to the field of bullying offers a practical guide on how to change a school’s response to bullying behaviors set within the framework of an engaging story.

Tom Cavanagh