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.
The Leader in Me
At New Horizon, students learn about social responsibility and practice leadership in the classroom, in the school, and in the larger community. As part of its vision to create future American Muslim leaders, New Horizon incorporates The Leader in Me across all grade levels. Based on the well-known work by Dr. Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the program promotes leadership, respect, communication and time management skills, all qualities that align with the 21st Century learning skills. The Leader in Me teaches students the lifelong skills of self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-discipline and guides them on becoming successful leaders while creating a culture of student empowerment based on the idea that every child is a leader.
At the root of the leadership program are The 7 Habits. The concepts hold universal, timeless principles of personal and interpersonal effectiveness, such as vision, goal setting, listening and speaking, responsibility, teamwork, collaboration and renewal. Presented in kid-friendly language, The Leader in Me creates a common language for teachers, students, and parents.
Habit 1: Be Proactive®
I am a responsible person. I take initiative. I choose my actions, attitudes, and moods. I do not blame others for my wrong actions. I do the right thing without being asked, even when no one is looking.
Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind®
I plan ahead and set goals. I do things that have meaning and make a difference. I am an important part of my classroom and contribute to my school’s mission and vision. I look for ways to be a good citizen.
Habit 3: Put First Things First®
I spend my time on things that are most important. This means I say no to things I know I should not do. I set priorities, make a schedule, and follow my plan. I am disciplined and organized.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win®
I balance courage for getting what I want with consideration for what others want. When conflicts arise, I look for a win-win solution.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood®
I listen to other people’s ideas and feelings. I try to see things from their viewpoint (paradigm). I listen to others without interrupting. I listen with my ears, my eyes, and my heart. I am confident in voicing my ideas.
Habit 6: Synergize®
I value other people’s strengths and learn from them. I get along well with others, even people who are different than me. I work well in groups. I seek out other people’s ideas because I know that by teaming with others, we can create better solutions than what any one of us could alone. I look for Third alternatives.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw®
Sharpen the Saw means to have balance in your life. Just like a car needs four tires to operate smoothly, a body has four parts: body, brain, heart, and soul. All four parts are needed to operate smoothly. I eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep (body). I learn in lots of ways and lots of places, not just at school (brain). I spend time with family and friends (heart). I take time to find meaningful ways to help people (soul). I balance all four parts of myself.
Student Leadership on campus is comprised of a Student Leadership Club (SLC) made up of a Board of Eighth Grade students, as well as representatives from Fourth through Seventh grade levels. The SLC leaders meet regularly during the school year to organize activities that build the school community and raise funds to benefit the tuition adjustment program. In addition, the members organize and conduct the weekly Monday assembly, run the Snack Shop and work collaboratively on service projects. In individual classrooms, the leadership spirit is carried out through students having classroom leadership roles. An example of such a role is of “student greeters” who welcome visitors and serve as ambassadors to the class happenings.
New Horizon students bring these leadership principles to life through everyday opportunities such as prayer and peer mentoring. The older peers also provide mentoring through buddy reading along with guidance on positive peer interactions. By putting into practice the core principles of the 7 Habits, students at New Horizon practice leadership in all aspects of learning, understanding that leadership isn’t limited to a separate curriculum, but it’s ubiquitous – everywhere and all the time.