At Dearborn Academy we know that learning is richer when we learn with friends. Having a network of trusted peers at school is the key to both academic success and happiness. We acknowledge that students who come to Dearborn may have had difficult experiences with friendship, whether they have experienced bullying or have had limited opportunities to create and nurture close friendships.
It is an essential part of our mission to create a school that provides a space where students can build, navigate and maintain healthy social relationships.
Dearborn strives to ensure that each student is part of our strong, inclusive school community with:
- Weekly community-building circles
- An active student council and the Genders and Sexuality Alliance (GSA)
- Mentoring and community service opportunities
- Community-building traditions including:
- A Halloween celebration
- Thanksgiving family-style meal
- March Madness week activities
- Field Day
- Student vs. staff basketball games
- High School Prom
- Color Day and more
At Dearborn Academy, restorative practices are the foundation of our community development. Dearborn is committed to creating a safe, supportive and connected community for our students to learn and grow. Restorative Practices provide students with structured experiences to practice and develop their social consciousness, communication and leadership skills in preparation for life after Dearborn.
We use community circles to create connections between students and staff and support the development of a joyful and caring community. Circles can be described as a different way of having a conversation. A facilitator offers some questions or topics to think about, and each student has the ability to share their thoughts with the use of a talking piece. The student with the talking piece knows that they will not be interrupted, as the rest of the members have the privilege of listening. Community circles increase engagement, attendance and support students in building meaningful friendships.
On Wednesdays each member of our community participates in community building circles with their homeroom team. Other days of the week you might find circles in classrooms about current events, or as a creative way to learn new content. As their familiarity grows as members of the circle, many students start to facilitate circles for their peers!
Another layer to restorative practices are restorative chats. Restorative chats teach students valuable lessons about conflict resolution, healing relationships, and taking responsibility without being overwhelmed by shame. Chats are facilitated by a trusted adult when a student or staff feels badly about an experience they had with another member of our community.
As Head of School Rebecca Altepeter says, “As long as we are alive we are in relationships with one another. As long as we are human, we will intentionally or unintentionally make other people feel bad at times. The stronger our relationships, the less frequently we will intentionally hurt others’ feelings.” Restorative chats help us build and repair relationships by providing a safe space for students to take ownership of their actions.
Restorative practices teach students the communication and social skills necessary to build relationships – and navigate the inevitable conflicts that arise from being in relationships – in a predictable, supportive and empowering manner.