In October of 2023, Center for Council initiated a unique partnership to support social-emotional learning, enhance character-building and improve school culture with Fortune School of Education, a system of tuition-free, college preparatory public charter schools.
Located in San Bernardino and Sacramento, which boast the second and third highest Black student populations in California, Fortune focuses on closing the African American achievement gap. While their emphasis is on academic excellence, Fortune leadership had come to feel that essential elements of the educational journey were not as strongly present on their ten school sites as they could be and that school culture had been declining, particularly in the challenging post-pandemic recovery period. Fortune’s brain trust knew that something was needed -- and reached out to Center for Council to engage its insight and expertise.
After a series of presentations, strategy sessions and an introduction to our process over the summer, fourteen Center for Council trainers set out for multiple Fortune campuses in Sacramento and San Bernardino to present simultaneous Introduction to Council workshops to resource the teachers, school site staff and, ultimately the scholars, as students are known at each school site. Two-day intensive training workshops invited teachers and site staff into the practice of council, unpacked the pedagogy, explored the methodologies and offered educators a new approach to building community amongst their teams, as well as inside their classrooms.
As is the case in many schools returning to a post-Covid environment, our trainers realized that teachers' emotional resilience and capacity was stretched thin. Administration understood that scholars and families were concerned about “voice and choice,” as well as high suspension rates. There was a real interest in shifting culture and prioritizing relationships between school leadership and teachers, as well as with scholars and their families. As the workshop sessions unfolded, faculty were able to see that, as they learned more about colleagues in council, a strong container started to form. As teams were given the opportunity to get to know one another and share stories, they began to build bonds in ways that were new and welcome. Some reported hearing their colleagues’ first names for the first time. As the two-day trainings unfolded, collegial relationships were strengthened and the growing team spirit was palpable. Teachers expressed feeling more supported by their peers and more engaged in their environment than they had been before the training. The benefits of the practice of council for staff were apparent -- and its value as resource for engaging scholars became clear, as well.
Despite coming in the final hours before a much-needed holiday break, the response to the council training workshops from administrators, teachers and trainers across the sites that participated was very positive: “Everyone shared great gratitude for the time, each other and the practice,” described a trainer. “They lit up on Day 1, when they learned one another's first names for the first time. The teachers were so open with their sharing and let themselves be vulnerable. The seemed to LOVE it!”
One of our trainers observed: “Participants left feeling very enthused about Council and more connected to each other. Faculty was able to see that, as they learned more about colleagues, the container started to form.“ Another trainer noted that, “The group participated with joy, open hearts and kindness. Their questions were reflective of deep listening and desire to learn this practice and build community.”
Many on our trainer team have decades of experience bringing council to schools. One of our veteran trainers was struck by how intensely this training workshop resonated. “It went very deep. Many tears and tissues, and laughter as well. At the end, we witnessed by speaking into the center in no particular order... and the witnessing went on for a long time. There was a collective sigh at the end, a sense that something really powerful had shifted. The people who'd been reticent during Day One showed their attentiveness and support to the process and the rest of the circle. I've experienced a lot of these, and this one was really a WOW. By the closing council, some people shared that they hadn't even been sure they would stay at [that school site], and now felt connected and inspired again.”
The most poignant feedback came from the teachers themselves
Despite working together in intense conditions for some time, many staff had never had the opportunity to really connect with one another to hear stories of their shared challenges, inspirations and aspirations. At each site, our trainers coached teams to self-facilitate their first of many Council Huddles in smaller groups, as the below video captured:
We are excited to deepen and expand our partnership with the Fortune community and eager to help nourish the seeds that have been planted in these initial workshops. Center for Council's programs for educators have had a profound and transformative impact on a wide variety of school sites. Teachers and other staff develop a greater sense of connection, community stakeholders engage more deeply and youth feel seen and valued, leading to a more meaningful educational experience that promotes equity and opportunity. Council not only increases campus well-being, but also provides a dynamic platform for the development of creative school curricula, instructional strategies, support services and restorative justice practices.
We are looking forward to growing our collaboration with the Fortune team!
If you are interested in exploring bringing council to your school or institution, please reach out to us to discuss setting up a training program by filling out this form.