When my daughter started Kindergarten, I volunteered as a recess monitor. In between the peals of laughter, I noticed something that bugged me. Students who cut in line, grabbed a ball out of turn or caused other trouble were getting benched. Some of them were being cast as "troublemakers."
As an education policy researcher I worried they were on a path to underachievement. As a mom I wondered if there might be a better way. I found it in something called Restorative Practices.
It's a framework for community building and conflict resolution, and is predicated on high expectations with high support to meet them. In education, Restorative Practices emphasizes building trusting relationships and learning from conflict. It helps put the kibosh on bullying.
Say a kid grabs someone's ball and a tussle ensues. A traditional approach would be to intervene, take the ball away, and give the perpetrator a time-out. The new approach turns that whole process on its ear.
When everyone has calmed down, you ask a simple question: "What just happened, and what were you thinking as it happened?" The answer could be "I wanted to shoot baskets but no one would give me their ball." There are a few more follow-up questions, concluding with, "What do you think needs to be done to make things right?"