The Aspiring Spirits

Two years ago, I had an opportunity to assemble and regularly meet
with a group of ten boisterous middle school girls. These girls were
having numerous conflicts among themselves and with others; they often
referred to these issues as “drama.” I decided to step in. I offered
these students a safe space to work out their differences, to come to a
better understanding of what triggered their quarrels and to take steps
to reduce the drama.

Coach’s Corner: Well-tuned Routines

Dear Coach Erin,
I find that the first week after I model a routine the class runs smoothly, but then the routine starts to fall apart. What can I do to make a routine stick?

Coach Erin says,
Modeling and practicing help students grow in their ability to do things with competence and autonomy. After a routine is modeled and practiced, it takes maintenance and repair to keep it well-tuned. 

Use Take a Break to Keep Students Learning

TAB is a redirection that allows students to regain composure and self-control by moving a short distance away from the class for a few moments. The TAB location is a designated quiet space, close enough to the activity that the student is not isolated. TAB can be teacher-directed or student-directed. The goal is for students to learn how to recognize when they are losing focus and get themselves back on track-an important life skill.


I teach eighth grade Spanish. In my classes this year, I wanted to try Circle of Power and Respect (CPR) meetings, because the model fits nicely with my belief that content is taught through communication and learned through social interaction: every student needs to feel social acceptance so they can focus on learning. 

School-Wide Social Contract

At the first meeting of our school’s Continental Congress*, students expanded
our discussion about school-wide guidelines to include why certain
guidelines are needed. The values-centered discussions about equity, control,
independence, community, and management that followed enabled teachers and
students to explore how and why communities establish guidelines in the first

More democratic governance