Council In Schools works with schools of all kinds to develop and sustain council programs and practices. Based on the universal tradition of sitting in circles sharing our stories, council builds trust and helps create safe, caring environments for students, teachers, staff, parents, and community members.
CIS schools receive: council training, individual in-class mentoring for teachers learning to facilitate council circles, group mentoring in which school staffs practice council amongst themselves with guidance from a CIS consultant, parent and community council facilitation, restorative conference facilitation, restorative practices professional development and program implementation, and rite-of-passage retreats for students and faculties. CIS also trains and mentors administrators, counselors, school-based health service providers, and new teacher support providers to facilitate council-based groups.
Council is a process with countless applications in schools. It is not an add-on program but an integrated practice that is an invaluable tool for any educator or group facilitator. Useful at every level of education, council offers strategies for teachers to engage students in the process of bringing meaning to subject matter through relational activities involving dialogue, art, music, movement, improvisation, and intrapersonal (mindful awareness) modalities. Council also offers counselors and administrators protocols to facilitate staff, student, parent, family, and community groups.
Training is the first step in implementing a council program. CIS offers a two-day beginning training: Introduction to Council for Educators Level 1, as well as a two-day level two workshop, Council In Schools Practicum Level 2.
The level one training introduces educators to the practice of council and its application in the classroom setting. Participants experience different forms of council and learn how to link council to academic content and curricular standards and social-emotional learning competencies. Upon completing the level one training, participants can facilitate councils themselves in their classes and schools.
For educators who have taken the Level 1 training and facilitated councils, the Level 2 practicum explores the realities – both the joys and the challenges – of bringing council into classrooms and schools. Working in part from the participants’ own experiences facilitating councils, participants develop understanding and gain facility with “reading the interactive field,” learning to invite “witness” perspective, forming council prompts, integrating council with academic subject matter, working with conflict, addressing discipline in council, understanding how council and restorative practices are related, and developing a personal council practice.
CIS offers each of these trainings four times a year at our facility at the Herb Alpert Educational Village/New Roads School in Santa Monica. These trainings are open to all educators and anyone interested. CIS also schedules trainings for individual schools (and school organizations) and tailors the training to meet the particular needs and resources of each school. We also offer ongoing professional development for schools whose teachers have completed the Level 1 training.
Contact us to plan a training for your school.
Individual Mentoring: After participating in council training, teachers receive ongoing support to develop their council facilitation and prompt-forming skills by having a CIS consultant work with them one-on-one to prepare for, facilitate, and reflect on classroom councils. Each individual mentoring session consists of a teacher and CIS consultant collaborating on a council plan, co-facilitating the council in the teacher’s class, and debriefing after the council. We recommend 3-10 individual mentoring sessions for each participating teacher over the course of the school year, depending on the needs and resources of the teacher and school.
Group Mentoring: Approximately once a month, teachers and others who are learning to facilitate councils in their classes and at the school come together for a group mentoring session to sit in council with one another and one or more CIS consultants and interns. These monthly group mentoring sessions provide teachers and other school staff a chance to practice council among themselves, to share and learn from one another’s experiences facilitating councils with students, to problem-solve, and to gain new council tools, insights, lesson plans, and coaching.
Holding a council is a simple process that anyone can facilitate, and the art of facilitation — developing good council prompts, reading the interactive field, working with the group energy and dynamics — is developed with training and practice. CIS offers trained, experienced consultants to facilitate councils in classrooms, with school staffs, and with circles of parents, families and community members. Parent and family councils are a great way to build the school community and provide a forum for parents to explore the mysteries of parenting and practice the intentions of listening and speaking from the heart. CIS facilitates (and/or co-facilitates with someone from the school) parent/family/community councils (in English and/or Spanish). We recommend four or more parent/family/community councils over the course of the school year.
Restorative Justice Practices
A restorative justice approach to school discipline provides ways for schools to safely and effectively resolve and prevent conflicts. Council In Schools offers two restorative justice-based discipline practices:
Peace Talks is a protocol developed by educator and CIS trainer Jane Raphael that helps students resolve conflicts themselves. CIS works with schools using council and other activities to adapt the Peace Talks protocol to each school’s unique culture, values, and needs, and then assists in implementing its use.
A restorative conference is a circle convened when harmful behavior happens that cannot be resolved by students themselves — whether it be in the form of gossip, bullying, a fight or assault, vandalism, theft, a student-teacher conflict, or a neighborhood conflict that has rippled into the school environment. A restorative conference brings together the people who engaged in the harmful behavior and those affected by it, along with supporters for both. CIS facilitates restorative conferences, using questions that call on the participants to identify what happened, who was affected, what harm was caused, and what is to be done to make things better and prevent the harmful behavior from happening in the future. By using a circle process to address harmful behavior, a restorative conference:
- holds people truly accountable for the effects of their behavior
- increases communication and respect, improves problem-solving skills, and improves individuals’ and the community’s ability to deal with conflicts
- contributes to building a strong sense of community
Rite of Passage Retreats
CIS facilitates one-day and overnight retreats at The Ojai Foundation and other locations for students, as well as for teachers and school staff. Our retreats weave council with community-building activities, teachings and traditions from the land, ceremony, alone time, and play to provide a unique and profound experience. We work with schools to design each retreat to meet the school’s needs and intentions. Participants return from the experience with a deeper understanding of, and deepened relationship with, nature, themselves, and one another.