Among the things that make PS 321 so special are the unique characteristics of each classroom. While there are standards for everything academic, PS 321 teachers show amazing creativity and individuality, allowing classrooms to display their own personalities within these standards. Rooms are arranged with areas for group meetings as well as small group work. Student work is always prominently displayed, bulletin boards lively and current, materials organized and readily available, and large classroom libraries are arranged in baskets according to genre, encouraging students to select their own books for independent reading. Classroom routines are established early each year and usually include a morning “putting away” and homework hand-in time (reversed at the end of the day), establishing classroom rules, lining-up routines, etc. Children are taught through these routines to be responsible for their own actions and possessions and to respect others’ property.
PS 321’s Respect Initiative is an array of policies and programs aimed at teaching and implementing the many different aspects of respect from noise in the halls to teasing to respecting the diversity of our school community. The goal is to create a calm, cooperative learning environment. Components include our long-standing Peer Mediation Program and Community Standards, some school-wide read-alouds and lessons taught in classrooms. Parent outreach efforts to the entire community include school-wide potluck dinners, a monthly International Parents Meeting in the Guidance office, conflict resolution material for classrooms and a Staff/Parent Diversity Committee. Periodically, a school-wide book is selected by the administration that every teacher reads and discusses in his/her class. Themes support issues of difference, tolerance, and respect, sometimes explicitly, other times more subtly. The goal is community building through a shared experience across the grades. Parents can learn the title of each new book through the Tuesday Bulletin. A parent copy is always available in the Parent Center for flipping through or borrowing overnight.
PS321 Community Standards:
Be careful with other people’s feelings. Don’t tease or insult or threaten or call anyone an unkind name.
Tell the truth. Don’t lie.
Use appropriate language. Don’t use bad words or gestures.
Respect other people’s conversations. Don’t interrupt when people are talking.
Don’t bother people when they are working or learning. Don’t barge into classrooms.
With your body:
Be careful with other people’s bodies. Don’t hit or bite or fight. Don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable.
Be careful with other people’s things. Don’t steal or break or damage anyone’s property.
Be careful with our school property. Don’t destroy things and don’t write on desks or walls.
With your mind:
Always ask this question: “Would you like it if someone did that to you?”
- Be quiet in the halls. Classes should walk silently.
- Listen to and follow directions given by any staff member.
- Be on time.
- Walk. Do not run.
- Work quietly in your classroom so that other people can think.
- Don’t fool around in the bathroom.
- Don’t chew gum.
- Eat only in the cafeteria, or, during designated times, in your classroom.
When you do not follow the community standards, you will be asked to try to solve the problem that you created.
You may have to:
Write a letter of apology.
Participate in mediation.
Meet with an administrator or guidance counselor.
Your family may be contacted. Inappropriate items may be confiscated.
PS 321 also follows the NYC DOE Discipline Code.
Students involved in conflicts are encouraged to “talk it through” so they can articulate their issues and arrive at a peaceable solution. This approach is part of 321’s Respect Initiative, a school-wide system aimed at teaching children to take responsibility for their actions and the solutions to conflicts. Classroom teachers or adults on the playground serve as facilitators for these discussions. If a problem can’t be resolved at the classroom or playground level, our Guidance Counselors may be called on for their expertise.
We have two full time guidance counselors at P.S. 321, Carlina Ramos and Heather Hoover Whitney. The guidance counselors lead a number of groups for students at lunch time and other times and help to coordinate the peer mediation program. They also work with kids and parents in crisis on an emergency basis, and will do lessons in classes or help teachers plan as needed. In addition to working with students, Carlina and Heather can help parents find low-cost or free outside counseling and a variety of other services as well. Carlina and Heather’s offices are in Room 130.
PS 321’s Peer Mediation Program was originally part of a citywide Resolving Conflict Creatively Program sponsored by Educators for Social Responsibility. Our team consists of staff Mediation Coordinators, Heather Whitney and Sara Despres, and 4th and 5th graders who are trained in mediation. Mediation helps students who are having problems come to a “peaceful” solution. Mediators are present each day during lunch periods in the rear schoolyard. Student mediators are trained to help make 321 a more peaceful place by speaking clearly, listening carefully, and presenting alternative solutions to problems. Since the playground is where many issues of teasing and rough behavior arise, mediators help to raise the standards of fairness, good manners, sharing, inclusion, and collaboration. In this way, these aspects of good citizenship are instilled early, community-wide, and students can feel proud about their contribution to social responsibility. It is important for all the children to know that “telling” when there is a serious problem is not “tattling” and that asking for help is the first step in helping them solve their own problems. Children who get help from student mediators learn to use the language of negotiation and, over time, become able to make better choices about how they talk and behave. It is also a boost to their self-esteem when they realized they have helped to solve a problem.
Here are five tips to get you started in discussing social media with your child:
- Discuss online safety – Have ongoing conversations with your child about online etiquette and safety. Remind your child not to give out his or her phone number, address, or other important information without your consent, and to communicate only with people he or she knows. Also, allow your child to develop independence online, just as he or she is increasingly independent in the physical world.
- Ask your child to teach you – Today’s children are digital natives and are often technologically savvy. Ask your child to teach you how to use his or her favorite social media sites and discuss them. This is a great way to learn about your child’s online behavior.
- Set an example – Practice safe and responsible online habits in front of your child. You are your child’s most important role model. Be the digital citizen you want your child to be.
- Help your child create a positive online reputation – A positive online reputation is important for academic, career, and social success. Encourage your child to be respectful and communicate positively with the online community. Explain that it’s not always easy to delete offensive or questionable content.
- Encourage offline activities – To achieve academic success, your child should be focusing on schoolwork, responsibilities at home, and other positive offline activities. Outside activities are also important for a child’s social success, health, and wellbeing.
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