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My work setting is a public high school that has just over 1,500 students. The school is located in a relatively small town in Northern California and almost half of the student population is socioeconomically disadvantaged. Like many small towns in Northern California, Grass Vally got its roots during the gold rush of 1849 and then transitioned into a community dependent on the timber industry. The result of this was an industry dependent community that had very little cultural diversity. As industry left the city and as property prices went up across the state, our diversity began to increase. With that came a need to focus on ethical behaviors, respect for diversity, and civil discourse.

During my time in high school, I have participated in schoolwide initiatives and targeted interventions. We understood the need for students to be able to share their opinions in a rational manner and we desired to give them the tools they needed to have constructive conversations with their peers. (Gay, 1994) In an effort to improve ethical behaviors Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) was adopted as a school-wide initiative. The school then contracted with Phill Boyte and began running “Breaking down the walls” in an effort to bridge the gap between different social groups on campus with the hopes of increasing civil discourse amongst students. Our hope was that if we could provide a structured opportunity for students from different backgrounds to engage in discussions with each other that we could make progress in our effort to increase their capacity to communicate and respect each other. (Gay, 1994) Then as a result of a school-wide staff retreat, we decided to get strategic about how we were building culture on campus and began a number of traditions in the effort of bringing the human element to campus.

Although PBIS had potential and was successful at other schools in the area its roll out to the teachers was less than ideal. The staff did not buy into the program so we were unable to make traction. Breaking down the walls, was successful in starting critical conversations between different subgroups of students but the long term effects from the process were hard to measure and it is still unclear to us what the overall impact on the student body was. When we got together as a staff and put a focus on building culture it was successful in the short run but like the other programs listed above it lost its impact as time went on and after two years it fizzled away to a distant memory. If I was going to go back in time and improve the effectiveness of these programs I would first make sure that the staff was on board with the concept and that it was in line with our mission and vision for our school. I would then look to build in ways to sustain their impact overtime before implementing the program. It seems that there may be a tendency in public education to latch on to and implement a solution without giving much attention to its endurance. Had we as a team been bought into PBIS, discussed how we could reinforce breaking down the walls in our classrooms or developed a plan to sustain the cultural improvements we made as staff at our first staff retreat, I think we would have made greater gains. Additionally, research suggests that specifical teaching ethics may result in greater understanding and so as a staff, we may want to look for ways that we can imbed these concepts in our curriculum. (Carlson, 1998) It is clear that there is a need to address ethics, civil discourse and diversity within the educational system and my hope is that we will make great strides in this area in the near future. (Henslee et al, 2017).

Carlson, P. J., & Burke, F. (1998). Lessons learned from ethics in the classroom: Exploring

student growth in flexibility, complexity and comprehension: JBE JBE. Journal of Business Ethics, 17(11), 1179-1187. Retrieved from http://library.capella.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fsearch.proquest.com%2Fdocview%2F198021256%3Faccountid%3D27965

Gay, G. (1994). A synthesis of scholarship in multicultural education. Retrieved from

https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED378287.pdf

Henslee, A. M., Murray, S. L., Olbricht, G. R., Ludlow, D. K., Hays, M. E., & Nelson, H. M.

(2017). Assessing freshman engineering students’ understanding of ethical behavior. Science and Engineering Ethics, 23(1), 287-304. doi:http://dx.doi.org.library.capella.edu/10.1007/s11948-016-9749-2

 
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