New Horizon Irvine has adopted the Positive Discipline Model by Dr. Jane Nelsen to help foster and develop mutually respective relationships between adults and students. Dr. Nelsen’s research and in depth experience resulted in this model that teaches young people how to become responsible, respectful, and resourceful members of their communities. New Horizon seeks to foster this sense of community and respect within each of its students. Upon the adoption of this model, faculty and staff went through extensive training with Dr. Nelsen herself. Dr. Nelsen gave the following benchmarks for “effective discipline that teaches:”
- Helps children feel a sense of connection. (Belonging and significance)
- Is mutually respectful and encouraging. (Kind and firm at the same time.)
- Is effective long-term. (Considers what the child is thinking, feeling, learning, and deciding about himself and his world – and what to do in the future to survive or to thrive.)
- Teaches important social and life skills. (Respect, concern for others, problem solving, and cooperation as well as the skills to contribute to the home, school or larger community.)
- Invites children to discover how capable they are. (Encourages the constructive use of personal power and autonomy.)
Here at New Horizon, students and teachers work together in a respectful manner to deal with the daily issues that may occur. Teachers model firmness by respecting themselves and the needs of the situation, while modeling kindness by respecting the needs of the child. When students are exhibiting challenging behaviors, teachers work hard to identify the belief behind the behavior. According to Positive Discipline, there are four reasons children misbehave. The Mistaken Goal Chart explains why children misbehave and how teachers or other adults should approach each child based on why they are exhibiting the behavior.
Positive Discipline emphasizes that effective discipline allows teachers to recognize the reasons why children do what they do rather than merely attempting to change the behavior. With this system, teachers are empowered to dig deeper and help students get to the root of their problems versus just take care of them on the surface.
Classrooms have adopted the classroom meeting as a means to help resolve situations with the help of fellow classmates. This concept from Positive Discipline aligns well with the Islamic concept of shura (consultation). In classroom meetings, teachers facilitate a community environment where students practice effective communication skills, problem solving skills, developing solutions versus punishments, and exchanging words of encouragement between peers. As a result, our students feel a sense of ownership and agency in their school process. They can suggest ideas for peers and teachers and as a class, they can vote on which solutions they will try first. Often teachers encourage students to role play the situation in reverse so that students can learn how to empathize with fellow students and take on another perspective other than their own. By this method, we have observed that students have built stronger ties to one another, have developed their voices for justice, and feel they have a say in their school environment. With this training, we hope to foster a strong sense of leadership that will enable our Alumni to take an active role in any future schools, organizations, and communities they become a part of.