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Sura Hart's Reflections on NVC in Schools Projects

Sura Hart is a CNVC certified trainer, educator, and contact for U.S. school projects

Sura HartI wrote the following email in response to questions posed by a CNVC Trainer who wants to submit proposals for NVC programs to schools and school districts in her area.

Feb 4, 2009

Dear Kathy

Your questions and requests got my attention. Bringing NVC consciousness and skills into schools has been a passion and major focus of mine over the last eight years. In the process I have entertained and explored these same questions. I thought that sharing some of my experience may be of some help to you and others who are eager, as I am, to see NVC infused schools, or whatever form they morph into. Perhaps something quite unlike what we now recognize as “schools”?

I am copying your Questions/ REQUESTS followed by my RESPONSES:

REQUEST: Examples of proposals to schools for students and/or staff.

RESPONSE:
I have written a number of proposals for school programs over the last 8 years and I would be willing to send one or two to you if you think they would be useful. If you tell me what you are thinking of for a school program, it would help me to know which proposals to send.

Although I have put a lot of time and thought into making proposals, only one proposal was implemented:
The Pacifica Pilot Project was designed as a 3-year project and was accompanied by funding for the first year. At the end of the first year, the school experienced a crisis: the director who was the main supporter of the program left, along with half of the teachers. At the same time, funding for the program ran out along with the people who had agreed to find continued funding. I learned a lot from that project, much of it is included in my end-of-year report, which has been uploaded to the Research files on cnvc.org. 

One crucial thing that I learned is that it takes certain conditions for a school to sustain such a transformative project.  Now, when people express interest in bringing NVC programs into schools, I look carefully at the conditions in the school that I believe are key to success: school stability, relationships of key decision makers, their commitment of time and money, buy-in by staff. I have not seen many schools that I believe are ready to implement a school-wide program. It has been a few years since I have made such a proposal.

School districts:
I have not seen this kind of buy-in yet.  I would like to hear if others have. I did engage in many conversations over a year’s time with a couple of key decision-makers in the LA Unified School District: the LAUSD Violence Prevention Director and the President of the LAUSD School Board. Both of these people were very interested in NVC and confident that it would contribute substantively to their programs. However, it seems they were continually putting out fires, and their ability to consider proposals or even have conversations came and went depending on the magnitude of the crisis du jour.  We never come up with a clear vision for how to integrate NVC into programs they already had underway and were to some degree committed to.

REQUEST: Information on what schools, how many, and where NVC is being taught and integrated into the system or classrooms.

RESPONSE:
Six years ago, Marshall asked me to compile this kind of information, and I did the research with the intent of compiling a useful resource. I believe that (6-year-old) list is out there somewhere, though I ended up believing it was likely to create more confusion than clarity. What I have found is that NVC is being “taught”, “lived”, and “integrated”, to varying degrees and in a number of contexts within schools. I am excited and encouraged to be aware as I am of so many people making inroads, inventing and adapting programs, finding their way, mostly through trial and error. I celebrate the growing number of teachers, school counselors, directors, and parents who are passionate about NVC and finding many ways to share it with kids.  I see that this is a growing grassroots movement. One of the most precious things I have to share with schools, as I travel to meet with teachers, and parents, are stories of what people are doing in other schools. They are not alone in this pioneering effort.

In the last couple of years, I see more seeds taking root and gardens growing. The way I see this happen, most often, is when one, or sometimes two, teachers in a school start to live the consciousness of NVC in their classrooms, committed to their own ongoing training and practice and little by little introducing into the classroom structures and processes such as I’ve written about in The Compassionate Classroom and The No-Fault Classroom. Over time NVC gets integrated into how these teachers structure and live in their classroom. And others notice... parents, other teachers, principals. In this way, the life consciousness of NVC grows in schools. Now I’m seeing, most often in smaller private schools, a critical mass of people on fire with this life-transforming movement, at which point I and other trainers are invited in to work with whole faculty and/or with the parents. And I’m happy to go to these schools I call “ripe & ready.”

REQUEST: Any studies or known impact, benefits or positive outcomes …

RESPONSE:
The results of these programs in schools in terms of reduced acts of bullying, fewer conflicts, more cooperation and respect are significant, remarkable, and so far, to my knowledge, mostly anecdotal or qualitative.

REQUEST: Any related information that supports the use of NVC in the school setting and why schools would want to bring it into their systems...
REQUEST: Any helpful related statistics...

RESPONSE:
I’m sure there are now many sources of information and statistics that support the value of a program like NVC. The Committee for Children has perhaps the most extensive resource list in support of social-emotional learning, empathy training in schools and their Second Step program in particular: http://www.cfchildren.org.
Several years ago, I researched data that could convince schools of the value. In The Compassionate Classroom we drew from some of the brain research to make the case that when students don’t feel safe and relaxed (that their needs matter) in a classroom, their brains are not available for learning.

These days, I choose to work with schools that are already not only convinced of the value of programs like NVC, but on board with NVC based on evidence they’ve seen themselves, from colleagues who are getting great results in their classrooms because of their NVC practice and classroom applications, or because some teachers or especially the director has participated in our 5-day Educators Institute (www.nvceducatorsinstitute.com) or other intensive NVC trainings. I’m happy to say that there are more and more of these “ripe and ready” schools coming to my attention.

I also enjoy sowing seeds by giving presentations (with PowerPoint for large audiences) or short workshops at school / educational conferences.

REQUEST: Curriculums you have used or recommend.

RESPONSE:
When Victoria Kindle Hodson and I wrote The Compassionate Classroom (2002) we thought that it was as much of a curriculum as we wanted to write. For us, the focus has always been to shift the consciousness of the educators, teachers and parents, so that they live NVC with children. As educators ourselves, we know how deep is the conditioned mind of good/bad, right/wrong, deserve and power-over. And how powerfully this conditioning is reinforced in our educational institutions?

I have seen many “NVC lessons” and curricula that “teach” NVC to kids coming from this same conditioned framework. Still supporting the idea that teacher knows best, and there’s a right way to talk.

Any curriculum is delivered through the lens of the teacher. So my interest is in bringing new lenses to the teachers. How to do that without schools investing in years of trainings? This question has been guiding Victoria’s and my efforts to create materials and programs for schools.

Our most recent book, The No-Fault Classroom, is Victoria’s and my best effort to do this, by providing teachers with a “conflict resolution curriculum” that invites them, the teachers, to explore with their students, their vast regions of Inner Space. Teachers don’t need to be the experts; they don’t need to know NVC. Through a series of modules, they and their students learn about their Internal Operating System, consider the central element of choice in their lives, and develop skills, such as observing, reading feelings, connecting with needs, making requests, and shifting energy to get to calm-alert.  Throughout the 21-weeks, they make materials that support them to build skills, connect with themselves, connect with others, solve problems and resolve conflicts.

The No-Fault Classroom just came out last October, though we had pilot teachers in different parts of the world using it during the 2007-2008 school year. We have had wonderful reports from teachers who are using The No-Fault Classroom, reporting students becoming more thoughtful and cooperative, Reporting much fewer or no conflicts, and using the Curricular Tie-Ins that we wove throughout the curriculum to look with their students at history, social studies and literature through the lens of Universal Needs.

Based on the successes of one of our pilot teachers, in a large public charter school in Michigan, the whole school is now endorsing and, at the primary level, implementing The No-Fault Classroom. (This is a school that has unusual long-term commitment by the “CEO” to continual school improvement and that has been working steadily for 4 years with Victoria on systemic change, including the teachers learning NVC.)

Other, “lone” teachers are also implementing The No-Fault Classroom and find it provides step-by-step skill development and also a deep ground of understanding for both social-emotional learning and for enriched academic studies.

Inspired by the materials from The No-Fault Classroom, Victoria and I created a stand-alone set of materials, The No-Fault Zone ™ Game, which is being used in classrooms (as well as homes, businesses, family court, counseling offices) as its own curriculum, or in support of The No-Fault Classroom. You can see the Game on our website: thenofaultzone.com/

I’m feeling a little nervous to wax so wordy on the subject of The No-Fault Classroom. I am not comfortable “selling” and at the same time, as you may now guess, I’m very excited by how I see this NVC curriculum not preaching or teaching but inviting students and teachers to explore NVC consciousness, practice life-serving skills and enrich academic learning.

So that’s my “two cents” about curriculum.

I hope something here has been useful to you, Kathy, and to other trainers who have read thus far. If something I’ve shared contributes to your interest and work with schools, I would enjoy hearing what it is.

I’ve been wanting for some time to update the very outdated information on the NVC & Education pages of CNVC.org. Your questions and taking time today to respond to them has given me a boost in this direction. I’m grateful for the boost and for our every growing circle of passion and deep care for children.

Warmly,

Sura

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