In many schools across America, we begin each day with a morning ritual, the pledge of allegiance. Students stand sleepy-eyed with their hands over their hearts and recite the words that make our country great “with liberty and justice for all.” And though we proclaim it every day, the harder declaration is to live it.
In my classroom, students start off each school year discussing at length what it means to be a citizen of the United States. We debate, we question, and we make reference to our school creed: Be respectful, Be responsible, Be safe and an Active Learner. Students quickly discover that we cannot begin to learn unless we know how to best support one another throughout the process.
Because self-awareness, self-control and resilience are as important as reading, writing and arithmetic, my students learn to be part of a community of learners, and that learning can only happen when they feel they are appreciated and valued.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Education in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice released guiding principles around School Climate and Discipline. While the guidance is comprehensive and multi-faceted, the focus is clear, schools must be both safe and supportive for effective teaching and learning to take place.
I recently sat down with Secretary Duncan to talk about the importance of school culture and fair discipline, and the need for both educators and students alike to feel safe as they pledge their allegiance each and every day.
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Emily Davis is a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education.