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There is no learning without relationship, whether that relationship is with another person, a page of text, or the natural world. As physicist Niels Bohr says, “All science is conversation.”
Council, the oldest “new thing” around, is a rigorous, structured practice useful wherever people want to deepen relationships—with each other and with information. For 35, years practitioners in the lineage of the Ojai Foundation have trained educators to bring council to their classrooms and communities.
Classroom teachers learn to use council not only to create community among students but also to engage them in making lively connections to the academic standards. Simultaneously, a systemic council practice in the classroom develops students’ social-emotional learning competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.
Counselors use council with student, parent, and family groups. “Council” is not “counseling.” Rather, counselors learn to tap the wisdom of the group to celebrate its achievements and to address its challenges and concerns.
Administrators use council as an infrastructure for collaboration with staff, parents, and community. An administrator’s (or teacher’s) full participation in council gives students, staff, and community a chance to see your humanity and will ultimately bolster your authority and deepen respect for your role or position.
Parents use council for family meetings, in the practice of intimate relationship, and in parent council where the wisdom of the group provides direction with the ever-evolving mysteries of parenting. Parents also participate in community councils, involving all stakeholders—students, staff, local business owners, service providers, and others. Such councils establish deep connections that return the community’s attention back to the school as its heart, with the children at the center of al decisions we make.
Students develop skill in “the art of the group” and the capacity for meaningful action through direct collaboration. Council practice brings relevance to academic content in all subject areas. Whenever students participate in council, they are simultaneously learning how to facilitate those councils, thus developing a portable skill that will serve them in all aspects of their personal and professional lives.