Here are some points to make with school directors and other educators who might consider bringing council practice to their school or classroom:
1. When students feel seen and heard, they do better in school.
2. “Resilience,” the capacity to overcome difficult circumstance depends on having personal relationships.
3. When students participate in council, they are SIMULTANEOUSLY developing social-emotional and academic skills. (See research done by CASEL: casel.org, an organization founded by Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence.)
4. Council promotes the following social-emotional skills: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
5. Reading and writing well depend on speaking and listening skills. Speaking and listening are the foundations of literacy.
6. When staff members feel connected to one another in a meaningful way, they are happier at work and more productive.
7. Council develops what systems analysts call an “open-feedback loop,” essential for any organization to evolve and truly serve the needs of its constituents.
8. Parents learn from each other's wisdom in parent councils.
9. Parent-staff-student councils provide a powerful sense of community, a sense that we are all in this together (rather than the usual bickering that goes on between groups).
10. Council is the “art of collaboration,” an essential, portable, workplace skill that students take into every aspect of their personal and professional lives.
11. “Restorative justice,” a school discipline policy based on healing harms rather than punishment (suspending, expelling students), is now policy in many schools in the US. Council is the foundation of restorative justice. Council builds community. If there is no sense of community, no sense of deep connection between people, there is nothing to “restore,” no reason to do the hard work of taking personal responsibility and meaningfully resolving conflicts.
Each of these points is backed up by research. And your participation in council, as a teacher or director, will give students and staff a chance to see your humanity rather than just your role or position. This, in turn, will actually bolster your authority and deepen respect for your role or position.