Maine non-profit targets needs of rural schools

A Maine nonprofit is taking a new approach to education in three rural Washington County schools where many students struggle with adverse childhood experiences—problems often tied to poverty that hinder learning.

The Cobscook Community Learning Center launched its Transforming Rural Experience in Education (TREE) program this year at three elementary schools in Milbridge, Jonesport, and Charlotte, among the poorest areas of the state. Recent research in urban schools shows that students who experience trauma tend to struggle in school, and vast resources are dedicated to addressing the challenges arising from these struggles. But students in rural schools who experience similar trauma are often overlooked.

TREE’s efforts focus on helping poor rural students struggling with the same problems through a partnership with education researchers at Colby College and the University of Maine, and with the support of $1.3 million in foundation funding, the Bangor Daily News reports.

Laura Thomas, a former Milbridge Elementary teacher who now works as a coach for TREE, said the program starts with a simple question: “What are kids coming to school with besides just their backpacks?”

According to the Daily News:

The program isn’t just about poverty or drug addiction or hunger or special education or student performance or life expectancy. It’s about all of it. It’s about all the ways families and children in the area may fall on tough times, the trauma that causes, and the ways a school of 115 students can help kids overcome that trauma and learn.

TREE’s plan is to demonstrate through full-time coaches how schools can better respond to misbehaving students who may have experienced trauma, and improve academics by helping students work through their issues. The program is also working to help students access dental care.

The approach is one of many “trauma-informed” school initiatives based on recent research into how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) impact health and brain development, behavior, and learning. ACEs include a wide range of experiences that lead to stress, from surviving or witnessing verbal, sexual, or physical abuse, to chronic hunger, traumatic divorces, or parents addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Research from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and others suggest ACEs contribute to long term health problems including obesity and heart disease, and make it more likely for students to engage in risky behaviors.

Research shows students with at least three types of adverse childhood experiences are more likely than peers with less trauma in their past to experience depression, consider suicide, smoke cigarettes, and drink alcohol. The 2017 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey revealed “31 percent of Washington County students recorded at least three adverse childhood experiences . . . the second highest rate among the state’s 16 counties.”

“When we think about all the challenges we’re having in education, how much of it goes back to ACEs and never having done anything that addresses that in schools?” TREE Director Brittany Ray questioned.

The trauma-informed approach has proved successful in improving student performance and decreasing conflicts and disciplinary problems by increasing mental health care in inner-city schools, and TREE officials are hoping for similar success in the rural settings.

“Most of the education reform work has been done in urban settings,” Colby College education professor Mikel Brown, a member of the TREE research team, told the Daily News. “Rural schools do not have the same access to everything, from nonprofit support to transportation.”

Richard Fournier, lead researcher of character formation in rural schools for the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture’s recent School Cultures and Student Formation Project, pointed out in The Content of Their Character:

In general, rural school teachers and administrators face the same tasks as urban districts: to increase academic performance among students and prepare them for social and economic life despite their communities’ frequent issues with poverty, drugs, unemployment, and other socioeconomic obstacles. The schools’ tasks are difficult, and rural schools have unique features that both further and hinder these goals.

The work of TREE and similar organizations often doesn’t make the news because its focused in small towns, but it’s essential to the social fabric of rural communities that comprise more than nine million American students.

The Rural Schools Collaborative provides a place for rural educators with promising practices in this important sector of American education to share their experiences and help others along the way.

Student behavior makes teaching harder than ever

Hilderbrand Pelzer III once taught in a juvenile detention center. Now, as a principal, he says that student behavior in Philadelphia schools makes teaching harder than ever.

Pelzer quotes the principal of the Bensalem Youth Development Center School where he once worked: “It only takes one student to destroy and demoralize the learning environment.” In Philadelphia, officials estimate that more than half of all students have experienced a major traumatic event, according to the Philadelphia Citizen. With that many student needs, building and sustaining a thriving school climate can be a herculean effort.

Pelzer cites the Child Mind Institute, which says that about 10% of the school population nationally struggles with mental health problems. But only about one in three teachers think they have the skills to handle mental health issues.

Last year a group of teachers in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s state capital, shared stories of getting beaten up by students as young as six. Forty-five teachers resigned between July and October, 2017.

Pelzer writes: “A recent study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Consortium for Policy Research in Education found that teachers overwhelmingly think that suspensions helped them manage their classrooms.” In some schools, truancy has risen with the abolition of suspensions for minor infractions, and academic success among students not previously suspended has declined.

UCLA sociologist Jeffrey Guhin has observed similar patterns in urban public schools around the United States, though teachers are doing their best to connect with students and address the underlying issues.  He writes in the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture book The Content of Their Character that “there were often heroic commitments by teachers to show compassion to their students and to model such a compassionate life as a meaningful way to live.” Indeed, Pelzer and many others continue to make those heroic commitments, setting an example for their students.

In Pelzer’s school, “distressed students struggle to follow basic instructions, and have difficulty focusing their attention on organizing, planning and completing tasks.” The burden falls on teachers, he says. “At my school, I’ve had parents tell me with relief as they drop off their children that it’s up to us to manage them for the day.”

Pelzer concludes: “It is increasingly clear that if we want more progressive disciplinary methods, we need one or both of two things: More in-school professional help, which can be costly, or better training.”

The International Institute for Restorative Practices addresses the training need through its degree, continuing education, and professional development offerings. There are no quick fixes, which makes the heroic perseverance of Pelzer and his colleagues all the more impressive.

EL charter school opening to serve at-risk students

This fall, a new school is opening in Elgin, IL, and it will seek to differentiate itself by implementing a model that incorporates social consciousness and character development. This model is known as Expeditionary Learning (EL), and it was what attracted the new principal, Lezlie Fuhr, to take the new role.

The Daily Herald reported on Fuhr’s hiring and background as part of their coverage surrounding Elgin Math and Science Academy’s opening. The school has been approved to serve 200 students in kindergarten to 3rd grade beginning in August of this year.

Fuhr is a longtime educator, 22 years, who has worked in both the classroom and in administration. She’ll be moving her family almost 4 hours to Elgin in a display of commitment to the school’s mission.

Fuhr was attracted to Elgin not only because of the opportunity to a grow a school from the ground up. She said she, “[R]ead the (EMSA) charter proposal and was so inspired by what they were trying to accomplish and wanted to be a part of that.”

She was particularly attracted to the EL model that sits at the core of the school’s plan. The model creates space in the school day to focus on topics like social consciousness and character development. In her eyes, “It really makes learning meaningful.”

Fuhr added that: “I really want math and science to come to life in this school. We want (students) to be those problem-solvers, critical thinkers.” EL is an attractive option for those seeking opportunities in which students can apply their academic learning to the service of others. Educators are getting on board, as are parents.

Eighty families have already registered for the school’s entrance lottery, which will be held in April. The goal is to have 300 families, representing 500 students, registered by that time. In the meantime, Fuhr will continue to build out her leadership team so that she’ll be poised at the doors of an innovative and culture-focused school in August.

Researchers, too, are drawn to schools like this one, because they can afford ” insights into the impact of school organizational culture on opportunities for moral and civic formation of youth.” These kinds of schools “offer an environment of strong aims and school community, countercultural norms and values, and rituals and practices that offer a unique context for moral and civic socialization of youth” writes Notre Dame sociologist David Sikkink in The Content of Their Character, an upcoming book from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

One of the defining marks of an EL school is service and compassion. Their motto, “We are crew, not passengers,” is embodied in “acts of consequential service to others.”

For the Elgin families applying for a spot at the Math and Science Academy, this unique culture of service and compassion will certainly be appealing.

Families may also be motivated by the academic results. Ida Jew Academies in San José, California—a public charter school that serves a similar demographic of students—saw dramatic improvements in reading proficiency among English Language Learners (+26%) and students eligible for free or reduced-price meals (+21%). In EL Schools, service to others catalyzes learning. Educators look for more information on EL Schools can find case studies and research on their website.

Former British Education Secretary encourages character education

Nicky Morgan, now a member of parliament in the United Kingdom, spoke to students at Mangus Church of England Academy about all of the opportunities that schools have to form character. However, her passion for building character extends far beyond the school walls.

Morgan’s interest in character extends beyond public-speaking engagements. She authored Taught Not Caught: Educating for 21st Century Character, a book that explores the rewards students reap when schools concentrate on teaching character.

The Newark Advertiser covered Morgan’s visit to the school, located in the town of Newark-on-Trent. She received an invitation to speak after Anna Martin, a teacher, attended her remarks at a recent conference. The former education secretary’s focus on character made Martin think she would have valuable insights for the students.

Morgan praised Mangus’s work on character and encouraged the students, telling them that, “[I]t’s really good to see the focus you have got on it at Magnus and I think it will stand you in good stead and set you apart from the rest.”

Students took advantage of the opportunity to pose a range of questions to Morgan, with one in particular asking about sound ways to develop one’s character.

Morgan offered this constructive advice on that topic, “Find good people who are role models, perhaps outside of school . . .” She also pointed to the power of role models we don’t know personally: “Things you read and literature are really important, and understanding and reading about people with good character and taking responsibility for your character are also important.”

She also highlighted the importance of extra-curricular activities: ““It’s not just about formal education . . . if you think about everything else you pick up from your time in education, the people you meet,, both your parents and members of staff here and everybody else, and some of you may be involved in extra-curricular activities—they are really important, all of these things you do at other times in your life.”

Finally, in a nod to the discipline that is a fundamental trait of any person of character, Morgan reflected on some of the points in her career when she had doubts about a career in public service. She reminded students that, “The question is how you deal with life’s disappointments as well as life’s successes.”

Morgan’s recommendations regarding role models fit well with the analysis of Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture founder James Davison Hunter. In The Death of Character, he writes, “Implicit in the word ‘character’ is a story. It is a story about living for a purpose that is greater than the self. Though this purpose resides deeply within, its origins are outside the self and so it beckons one forward . . .” These are the stories of role models that we know personally or encounter in history and literature.

New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote The Road to Character as part of his own journey in identifying inspirational historical figures and telling their stories. Any of his ten chapters could form the substance of a lively discussion among high school students and animate their pursuit of character.

Alternative school meets the needs of students

Heidi Albin’s work at Complete High School Maize recently garnered a respected teaching award and $25,000 cash prize, recognition the science teacher credits in part to the Kansas alternative school’s unique approach to learning.

Albin recently received the coveted Milken Educator Award for 2017—dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher Magazine—for her efforts to connect with students who struggled in traditional high schools. She currently teaches biology, earth science, health, and agriculture, but incorporates other life skills and unique approaches to keep students engaged, according to Fort Hays State University, Albin’s alma mater.

FHSU reports:

In addition to the traditional curriculum, students are exposed to life skills through elective units such as survival skills, first aid and cooking. They get to experience chick hatching and husbandry. Albin wrote a grant for a community garden at her school and raised funds to acquire a therapy dog to help students cope with depression and anxiety.

“Whatever the students need to know is what we teach,” she said. “An alternative school is focused on meeting the needs of students in more direct ways than traditional schools. Our program is targeted to those issues.”

Maize’s approach is in line with a national movement toward an alternative “trauma-informed” approach to education that’s redesigning classrooms into less formal and more welcoming environments for students who have suffered trauma or struggle with other mental and emotional issues.

Alternative schools like Maize are considered pedagogical schools because they use a distinct theory and practice of learning and teaching.

David Sikkink, Notre Dame University sociologist and lead researcher of pedagogical schools for the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture’s School Cultures and Student Formation Project, which examined character formation in 10 sectors of American education observed, “moral and civic formation was communicated largely through commonplace practices and structures—a regime that was best understood as something that happens ‘on the ground,’ especially in relationships among students and between teachers and students.”

Albin didn’t take a traditional route to become a teacher, instead earning her bachelor’s degree in biology before taking advantage of FHSU’s Transition to Teaching program. The “T2T” program is designed to allow mid-career professionals to transition to teaching through an online program while they learn on the job.

“I was able to learn some more about science than I might not have had the opportunity to learn in the teacher education program,” she said. “The T2T program was perfect for what I wanted to do.”

Maize attracts outstanding teachers like Albin in part because of its ability to establish unique “commonplace practices and structures” that students need to succeed, and because of its support for educators who embrace the challenge.

For example, Albin worked with 1995 Milken Award winner Steve Woolf, now a superintendent, to incorporate a program he designed to engage students in the outdoors with adventures and experiences in leadership and service, FHSU reports.

The “WILD” program also promotes conservation, and Albin’s work to bring it to Maize played a role in her nomination for the Milken Award.

“His mission is to help young teachers doing great things,” Albin said of Woolf. “I want to pass that on. I work really hard, but I don’t want to keep that to myself. It’s more worthwhile if I can share it.”

Not every school can tailor its curriculum to students the way Maize does, yet every school serves children suffering from trauma and anxiety. The Education Law Center offers models, training tools, and additional resources for educators in its report, “Unlocking the Door to Learning: Trauma-Informed Classrooms and Transformational Schools.”

Boston Collegiate readies students for courageous conversations

In a racially diverse Boston-area charter school, multi-grade small-group teams have courageous conversations about race and anything else the students find troubling.

Boston Collegiate, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, is not an “intentionally diverse” charter school, writes Richard Whitmire in The 74. No special admissions rules or boundary gerrymanders exist to promote diversity. It just works out that way.

The white students are not drawn from the Boston’s upper classes, but rather are from South Boston. The black students typically live in Roxbury and Mattapan. Parents of the students, regardless of race, are typically cops, firefighters, nurses, janitors, and child care providers.

At a school like Boston Collegiate, it might seem logical that teachers would want to sidestep or straddle such touchy issues as President Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter, or national anthem protests. But just the opposite happens. Everything gets hashed out, sometimes painfully.

“Each year, the students get more comfortable talking about these topics in racially mixed groups,” Whitmire writes. “But that’s the world in which they live. More tricky than students are the parents. As one teacher bluntly put it, the students here are more evolved than their parents.”

“Character education in charter schools is sometimes fraught with potential for, and the reality of, racial tension,” writes Patricia Maloney in The Content of Their Charactera summary of character research in 10 sectors of American high schools, forthcoming from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

Boston Collegiate’s unique racial mix makes it a fascinating case study for cultivating intellectual courage. The Intellectual Virtues Academy defines this as “a readiness to persist in thinking or communicating in the face of fear, including the fear of embarrassment or failure,” and offers a guide for building this and other intellectual virtues.

The purpose of the school’s “Cross Grade Communities” is to nurture intellectual courage. In a recent session students were asked to define microaggressions, to say whether they have experienced them, and to discuss what individuals can do to improve school climate.

In this school, the students understand that these courageous conversations set them apart from their peers at other schools. “This school doesn’t allow race to define you. You choose to define who you are,” says senior Korde Oyenuga, who was born in Nigeria. Senior Justin Dalmatin concludes, “We’re going to be one step ahead of everyone else in college.”

That’s impressive—since most students will be first-generation college students. And that’s why there’s a waiting list 1,500 names long to get into Boston Collegiate.

Jewish school opens its doors to non-Jewish students

The Jewish Academy of Orlando is opening its doors to students of different faiths for the first time.

The change, effective in January, comes after repeated inquiries from non-Jewish parents and a vote by the school’s members to amend the bylaws and enroll non-Jewish students, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

The Jewish day school, where tuition ranges from $11,000 to $16,000 per year, has struggled to stay afloat after a drop in preschool attendance related to hoax bomb threats called into Jewish institutions across the United States last year, said Paul Lefton, spokesman for the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando.

The Jewish Academy, a fixture in the community for four decades, currently enrolls about 75 students after it eliminated its middle school program in 2016 and consolidated preschool through 5th-grade operations into one building. Parents and administrators believe the school’s 1-to-14 student-teacher ratio, use of technology, and character-focused curriculum will help draw in families of other faiths, the Sentinel reports.

Students recently studied Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, for example, and analyzed how it fits with the Jewish virtue of “kavod,” which means kindness and respect in Hebrew. Director of Academics Nikki Buyna said the school’s motto is “Go out and change the world,” based on the Jewish philosophy “tikkun olam” (“repair the world” in Hebrew), according to the news site.

“It’s not just academics,” Buyna said. “It’s also character.”

Jewish Academy alum Amanda Jacobson Nappi believes the move to open the school to families of different faiths will be a win for new students and the school. “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for the school community to be able to take advantage of the program and the innovative learning the school has to offer while, at the same time, having diversity in the school, which is something we promote as part of our own learning,” she told the Sentinel.

Paul Bernstein, CEO of the Jewish day school organization Prizmah, told the news site that many Jewish schools have opened enrollment to now-Jewish students for a variety of reasons, from declining enrollment to a desire to share their faith with the community. “Families like the spiritual nature of faith-based schools even if it’s not your own faith—particularly if you are one of the monotheistic religions,” Bernstein said.

Bernstein’s comments seem to jibe with research conducted by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture that analyzed character formation in ten sectors of education—including Jewish, Islamic, Catholic, and Evangelical Protestant schools. The findings, published in The Content of their Character,  feature education researcher Charles Glenn’s observation that in Islamic schools, “Christian schools were spoken of approvingly and Christian organizations and parents seen as potential allies; students told us of making friends with students in Catholic and other faith-based schools, of volunteering at churches.”

Religious schools are compelling to families of other faiths—or those of no particular faith—in large part because of the emphasis on character and strong ethical traditions.

Prizmah, which works with about 350 Jewish day schools across the U.S., hosts an admission community of practice for schools like the Jewish Academy of Orlando to navigate the challenges of retaining a distinct school identity, and connecting with families who value that distinctive education.

How to use literature for character education

Businesses, civic organizations, churches, and others sponsors are funding a literature program for students in Marksville, Louisiana that’s focused on courtesy, citizenship, and character.

The Ambassador Company launched its Character Education Program at Marksville Elementary several years ago with children’s books designed to offer important lessons for 1st- and 4th-grade students, Ambassador representative Stacie Thomas told Avoyelles Today.

“We chose first and fourth grades for the program because those are impressionable ages,” she said. “Each chapter in the book is a lesson. They learn the lesson and immediately apply it.” The program is free, and it’s now expanding to other elementary schools in the region.

The book for 1st-graders is titled My Favorite Book, and it deals with issues like manners and kindness, responsibility, and community pride, while the 4th-grade book, The Way To Go discusses deeper topics like death and mourning, peer pressure, and bullying. Some classes incorporate the books into daily lessons, while others task students with studying the material at home and discussing the material with their parents and teachers.

District Elementary Education Supervisor Celeste Voinche told Avoyelles Today the books “deal with being a good citizen, using good manners and being good to others.” “I think it’s a good idea,” she said, adding that she wants to expand the program to other schools. “We stress literacy in the schools and believe in having books in children’s hands.”

Dawn Pitre, principal at Marksville Elementary, said the program’s focus on three Cs—courtesy, citizenship and character—fit in well with other character development efforts already underway. “We focus on what we call the ‘Four Keys for Success’—responsibility, respect, perseverance and integrity,” Pitre said. “We stress these values all day. These books tie into what we already doing.”

Ambassador Company’s Character Education Program is funded through sponsors including business, civic organizations, churches, and individuals, and Thomas is currently working on drumming up funding for next year. The program doesn’t cost schools anything.

The challenge is for parents and educators to convey to students that those virtues are expected, rather than simply a fun thing to read about. There must be a quality of authority for them to be binding.

Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture founder James Davison Hunter writes in The Death of Character that a strong vision of good character “is imbued with a quality of sacredness.” “The standards by which one lives and the purposes to which one aspires have a coherence and inviolability about them and they beckon ever forward . . .,” wrote Hunter.

At Marksville Elementary, Pitre said teachers and administrators “stress these values all day,” which provides coherent messages for children and makes the most of the school’s partnership with the groups underwriting the character-through-literature initiative.

The Jubilee Center for Character and Virtues offers Knightly Virtues lesson plans for educators who want to use literature to build a coherent focus on character across the curriculum.

Christian, Jewish, and Muslim students create drama for understanding

Chicago students of different faiths are continuing a tradition that’s drawing them together through the Olive Tree Arts Network, a nonprofit that uses creative expression as a catalyst for cross-cultural dialogue.

About 150 students from eight of the city’s religious day schools—including Muslim, Catholic and Jewish schools—come together each year to participate in a shared curriculum known as Poetry Pals, run through the arts network, The Chicago Tribune reports.

The program tasks pre-teen students with working together to create wacky stories based on their religious customs, with the underlying goal of forming stronger bonds between students of different faiths, Olive Tree director Ilene Siemer told the news site.

“This is a really important stage in kids’ lives, because they don’t really have pre-seeded notions of each other yet,” Siemer said. “So we’re able to effectively convey how much we all have in common without having to deal with any of the baggage that many adults may carry.”

Students with Bernard Zell Jewish Day School and the Muslim Community Center Academy headed to the Catholic St. John Fisher School earlier this year to learn about the Catholic faith. In January, they went to the Muslim Community Center Academy, where students did a skit about a gang of Irish dancing squirrels cutting down a Christmas tree, and listened to Muslim students explain the basics of the Islamic faith, the Tribune reports.

The events offer students a way to have fun with their peers from other religions, while also sharing the philosophy, customs, and traditions of their own faith.

“I feel like I’ve gotten to teach (other students) a lot more about our religion, and how even though there are differences between our religions, the differences are very small and we can all still be friends,” said 11-year-old Ibrahim, one of five students who made a presentation about his religion. “I wish more people could understand that Islam is a religion of peace more than anything else.”

Siemer said a major objective of the program is to provide students a “safe place to ask questions” about different faiths and to quell prejudices before they evolve into something more dangerous.

The religious day schools in Chicago and elsewhere offer a unique space for students to form strong identities, and to learn from others with different beliefs.

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia fielded a study of ten sectors of schooling—including Catholic, Jewish, and Islamic schools—to examine how those institutions form character and citizenship.

Charles Glenn, lead researcher of Islamic schools, wrote about the experience in The Content of Their Character, currently available for preorder:

One student expressed appreciation that the Islamic school “feels actually kind of safe. You know everyone’s just like you, you’re not the outcast or seen as different or any of that. It’s really like, it’s a healthy environment and really just safe.”

The Islamic school provides a safe place for identity formation. The Olive Tree Arts Network extends that safe environment by creating a space where students can build relationships with kids of other faiths through a shared creative experience.

In addition to convening middle-schoolers for these creative events, the network also offers a simple infographic to help individuals of other faiths—or no faith—to understand the core beliefs and influential figures in Islam, Catholicism, and Judaism.

Valor Club students help clean their school grounds

Valor Club students in Oregon collect litter around their school grounds. This is only one of Nyssa Elementary School’s initiatives to make character a priority.

Principal Matt Murray told The Argus Observer that the school faced misbehavior problems with its 4th graders last year. “We knew we needed to be proactive about behavior,” he said.

Valor Club is a character building group. Teachers recommend the participation of interested students, who perform such service projects as sweeping bathrooms or picking up trash. School counselor Bobby DeLeon said 12 students are signed up for the Valor Club, with many more interested in joining.

Principal Murray said the school began Circle Time sessions at all grade levels this year. Students gather around and are given a chance to air out their feelings and release pent-up emotions. Sessions typically are performed two or three times a week, at the teacher’s discretion.

Circle Time sessions have been coupled with a program called Toolbox, by Dovetail Learning, which—according to a program description—teaches children 12 inner skills to help with self-awareness, self-management, healthy relationships, and responsible decision-making. Students use the breathing tool, for example, to calm themselves before acting irrationally.

Nyssa school leaders have committed to making character a priority. They also knew that they needed to try to measure their impact. One way that they are doing this is through a school climate survey that asks whether students feel that they belong.

A sense of belonging—beyond being good itself—can strengthen the moral culture of the school, according to Richard Fournier. Fournier writes in The Content of Their Character, an upcoming publication from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, what he observed in his field research: “One common goal among the schools’ administrators, often acknowledged by teachers, was to create a sense of belonging among students and staff. This sense of belonging built trust, which in turn gave teachers and administrators more clout when pointing students in the right directions.”

Nyssa school leaders are taking an intentional, multi-pronged approach to addressing behavior challenges and building character. The students who volunteer to pick up litter around the school now have a greater sense of belonging and of pride in their school.

Literature can provide another opportunity for a multi-faceted approach to building a sense of belonging. Facing History and Ourselves offers a lesson for middle school students that begins with a story to help students think through conformity, peer pressure, and belonging.