October is anti-bullying month and according to DoSomething.org, over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year. After reading so much negative information on bullying in the United States, I would love to highlight Oak Ridge Elementary School and their holistic school approach which encourages positive behavior initiatives throughout the school. 

My name is Alex King and I proudly serve as an AmeriCorps member at Oak Ridge Elementary School. As a member of the fourth team serving at the school I have had the incredible opportunity to serve as an extension of Oak Ridge’s school vision.  I, along with my fellow AmeriCorps members, support the school in their behavior initiatives including Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS), conflict/peer mediating, and positive discipline with a focus on Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). All of these practices continue to aid in reducing students’ negative behaviors which, as a positive consequence, also helps to reduce bullying.

At the start of our year, we were welcomed to participate in many professional development training sessions along with our teachers and school staff members. One of the focus areas was to identify ways we could work closely together to help increase positive behaviors throughout the school. One of the trainings was focused on how we could lead harm circles through restorative practices.  We were reminded of the importance of ensuring that student participation is voluntary and that these circles were not to be used as a punishment but rather as a way to help students address and resolve conflict. 

In my first month, I have had the opportunity to participate in circles with students and I think they are phenomenal. As a facilitator, I encouraged the students to use “I” statements when addressing their situation. Each student had a chance to state their feelings without being interrupted by the other. Through these circles we were able to resolve situations before they snowballed. Within this restorative practice, students are able to address harm and move past it.  

City Year AmeriCorps Members also play a special role in encouraging positive behavior at Oak Ridge. Because we are “near-peers,” many of our students feel comfortable reaching out to us and sharing what’s happening in their day. Often times we’ll hear from them during recess, a time with the most opportunity for conflict to arise. Corps members are able to reduce conflict by making sure all students feel included in games during recess, and by being available to talk, should a student need it.

Oak Ridge Elementary School aims to address negative behaviors as a whole while using restorative practices to address harm that has been caused. I am so proud to have the opportunity to serve with my fellow AmeriCorps members, teachers and school administrators in using a holistic approach to support students. 

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