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A Whole School Approach to Behavior Issues

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Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Middle School principal Michael Essien in 2015.  (KQED/Zaidee Stavely)

When Michael Essien became an administrator at Martin Luther King, Jr. Academic Middle School in San Francisco it was immediately apparent that he needed to help teachers get behavior issues under control. If students acted out in class, teachers sent them to an in-school detention, where they waited for disciplinary action. Pretty soon, any kid who struggled with a lesson was trying to get sent to detention, thus avoiding challenging work that might be embarrassing. Essien could see too many kids were not learning in this dysfunctional system.

In his first few years, Essien tried everything he could think of, including training teachers to deal with disruptions more effectively in the classroom, but nothing seemed to work. He quickly found that this “restorative” approach to classroom management was too much for individual teachers to handle on their own.

“Teachers are actually paid to teach and the behaviors were happening so frequent, if we’re expecting teachers to hold restorative conversations that means they’re not teaching,” Essien said.

That’s when Essien had an “ah ha” moment that is helping to turn this school around. Listen to the first episode of the MindShift podcast’s new season, “A Whole School Approach to Behavior Issues,” to learn how Essien and his staff are leveraging the relationship building expertise of support staff to support teachers in the classroom. Listen on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, Spotify, NPR One, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.


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