Two years later… the SFJC…

Today was our school’s activity award ceremony (not the academic award ceremony). I don’t enjoy talking in front of large groups of people (yeah teachers! who! hate! public! speaking!). When making any announcement in front of my school, I write it all out, and I read from my paper. I did the same thing for today’s activity awards — but I practiced it a few times so it didn’t sound totally robotic.

What did I give awards for? No, not for math club. (Another teacher did that.) I gave certificates of appreciation for the committee members on the student faculty judiciary committee. For two years, I served as a faculty representative on it. And this year (and next year), I am the faculty leader — in charge of it completely.

I wrote about it in 2008 when I first started, explaining what the committee does and why I decided to be a representative on it. In short, it has 8 students (2 elected representatives from each grade) and 3 faculty members on it. We meet whenever there is a violation of community standards. This can be academic integrity violations, disrespect to another member of the community, being late to school too many times, not signing out properly when leaving the building, or anything else. Every violation which is “serious enough” gets sent to us by the dean. There is no in house disciplinarian.

The most awesome thing is that the committee that deals with discipline is 8 elected students and 3 faculty members, and everyone only gets ONE VOTE. Although I might call the meeting to order, students are the ones who truly have the power.

For each incident that gets referred to us, the committee talks to the student involved. We try to understand exactly what happened, and we try to get the student to reflect about their actions in a broad way. Let’s be honest: it’s hard for teenagers (and even us, sometimes!) to think outside of themselves. And students questioning students about their actions, that can be powerful. We aren’t super confrontational (e.g. “how could you have done something so awful to someone else? WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!”). Instead, we try to guide students to be more aware of their thought processes (e.g. “why might the school have a policy about lateness?” or “who was affected by your actions?”). Once we’re done talking with the student, we discuss what we’ve heard. We try to come up with a recommendation that will help students. What’s amazing is how lively and thoughtful our discussions are. We aim to have consensus, and very often we can find common ground and reach it. I love the fact that I’ve been swayed to think differently by a case by an argument a student puts forth. They have insights I don’t. (And sometimes, I offer a broader perspective that they might not have.) [1]

Let’s think about what being on the committee means if you’re a kid. You already don’t get a lot of sleep. You’re probably involved with a number of other clubs. And you’re asked, sometimes for a week or two in a row, to show up everyday 40 minutes before everyone else. This year, we’ve met over 30 times. (Some cases take more than one day.) Think about it. These kids are AH-MAZ-ING. They put in time to take on this really challenging leadership role. It’s draining. And because cases are confidential, their work isn’t very visible.

So I wrote a 2 minute speech which captured how I feel about them and their work. It originally was twice as long, and had a lot more specifics in it, but I had to cut it down.

My high school was very different than Packer. Let’s say you wanted to leave class to go to the restroom. You had to get an ugly, heavy hallway pass from the teacher. Part of a teacher’s job included roaming the hallway finding kids outside of class and saying “where’s your pass.” Honestly, it was a great high school. I loved it. But what I see at Packer, which wasn’t in my high school, is the great amount of trust that exists among adults and students in the Packer Community. The existence of the Student Faculty Judiciary Committee is emblematic of that trust.

So to me, the unsung heroes of Packer are the student members who serve on the SFJC. Although we try to be as transparent as possible, much of what we do is confidential – so you don’t get to see all that goes on behind the scenes.

In the hearings, your elected representatives ask the insightful question that often resonates with the person who appears before us. And when we deliberate, time and time again I am shown such thoughtfulness about the cases we hear, and empathy towards those who come before us. The committee members help others see the importance of acting with integrity. I feel strongly that these students should be recognized for their dedication, their thoughtfulness, and their infinite willingness to arrive at school early to listen to their classmates.

I will give you your certificates later, but right now please stand when I call your name. Hold your applause to the end.

[NAMES]

Please give these students a great round of applause.

(pause)

I would like to specially recognize the seniors on the committee – Student A and Student B. They have served on the committee for three years. That’s way too many donuts, and a lot before school meetings. I’ve seen them grow into two of the most thoughtful, empathetic, and passionate people I’ve known at Packer. As student chairs this year, they have modeled what a leader should be to the younger members on the committee. They have always acted with the utmost integrity, and in every case, they stand up for what they believe in. They are not quiet voices, and for that we are grateful. We are in a better school because of them, and I can’t imagine Packer without them next year.

Student A and Student B, thank you.

It has been a lot of long hours on my end this year. Running the committee is so much more work than I imagined when I agreed to take it on. And it also has shown me how hard it is to be a really good leader.

[1] To be clear, sometimes students come before us and we listen to what they say, and we believe that they didn’t actually violate any community standards. But when we do find someone clearly violated a rule or core value of the school, then we generate reflective questions and have thoughtful conversations.

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One comment

  1. Wonderful to hear how well this all turned out — including your brave foray into (non-classroom) public speaking! Congratulations!

    – Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf on Twitter)

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