Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Power of a Network

I have always loved this commercial from Cisco about the Human Network.  So much so that I think I over use it in presentations when I discuss The Weidner School of Inquiry @PHS and our goal to help our students create professional learning networks that will help them to communicate their ideas to a broader audience.  Yesterday, the reason why I relate so well to this commercial became clear in my visit to Niles New Tech Entrepreneurial Academy in Niles, Michigan.  I was there to meet with the Director, Jerry Hotlgren, but since he was ill, I met with Mike Vota to discuss their Trust Card program and how they utilize it in working with student discipline.  

I have spent the last month or so thinking  deeply about student discipline, and how the simple discipline  does not seem to work.  There needs to be something beyond punishment to truly change behavior.  In the course of my searching, I had been reading a lot about the concept of Restorative Justice in particular through reading Howard Zehr and Ali Gohar's Little Book of Restorative Justice.  The idea behind Restorative Justice is that their is not only punishment for one's actions, but a large focus is placed on restitution and restoring community.  This approach fits with a lot of my core beliefs about discipline and has been attractive to me.  In order to learn more, I wanted to have an in depth discussion with a school that is utilizing these concepts.  My discussion with Mike provided this opportunity, gave me a framework to think about and share with my staff, and lead to some great thinking.  

Ultimately, what connects me to the Cisco commercial and appeals to me about Restorative Justice, is not the idea of a network.  Networking is powerful, don't get me wrong, It connects us to other people, places, and ideas.  The ability of the Net to do this has greatly enhanced both my learning as a professional and increased my awareness of the world around me.  The key though is not the network itself.  Rather, it is the relationships that come out of that network.  

As a part of the New Tech Network we have the ability to receive training, to access a data base of PBL lessons, and to attend conferences held throughout the year in which we can grow as leaders and facilitators of learning.  The greatest strength though is in the relationships we develop with the people of the network.  The short and long conversations that we have in the hallways of those conferences, the ability to call up the people we have met and seek their greater wisdom, and in the discussions with other passionate educators that rejuvenate our own passions.  It is those relationships that need to be the foundation of our culture as educators, and it is the restoration of those relationships that needs to be a foundational piece we hope to have school discipline lead to long term change in behaviors.  True change comes when we connect with others, and as Jack Nicholson says in As Good as it Gets, they "make us want to be better humans".

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