When Principal Dean Leeper founded The Kindezi School, he knew that creating a positive school environment presented its share of challenges. However, Prinicipal Leeper recognized the urgency of creating a physically and emotionally safe space within inner-city Atlanta. Into its second year of operation, The Kindezi School continued to experience behavioral problems among its student body. Principal Leeper knew he had to jump into action and do something innovative.
He began to graph, on a prominent wall, any behavioral incident that took place at school, anything from an aggressive nudge in the hallway to a full-on fight in the cafeteria. Principal Leeper explains that whenever a student committed an “unpeaceful” act, he required him or her to fill in a unit on the chart, which was color-coded for each grade level. Everyone could see which classes were the most peaceful, and soon the students started to strive to improve their behavior. Furthermore, the students who were the most respectful toward their schoolmates and teachers were invited to a quarterly peace party.
During the first semester of the school year, about five behavioral incidents occurred every week, but once Principal Leeper introduced the Peace Chart, behavioral problems declined significantly in the second semester. At the weekly school-wide assembly, Principal Leeper reviewed the Peace Chart. Many took notice that the school culture was improving. The following school year, The Kindezi School still reported a significant drop in incidents and of the ones that did occur in the first month of the school year, only one of them involved a returning student.
Best of all, Principal Leeper has seen Kindezi students become more empathic toward each other. Among the second grade students, who were previously responsible for many of the school’s incidents, one student in particular made incredible improvement. This student had emotional and financial difficulties, but he was also one of the most popular students in his class. One day, he found a prized item, a pink zipper folder – which happened to be his favorite color. He knew that his classmate, an autistic student who was often teased and ostracized, did not have a zipper folder. Instead of keeping the folder for himself, he gave it to her.
Principal Leeper will know he has succeeded in creating the school of his dreams when Kindezi students spend time outside of school thinking of ways to help others and when generous actions become common place at The Kindezi School.
Try making a peace chart with your family, class, or school. Share your experiences in the comments section below!
Contributions from Erin Robertson.