Saturday, June 29, 2013

Zero Indifference at The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth

Normally this blog posts Monday through Friday, but there were no posts on Thursday and Friday and now there's a post on Saturday.  What's up?
I am now at UC Santa Cruz preparing to teach the Mathematics of Money for the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth (CTY).  I traveled on Thursday and tied up loose ends that day.  I made sure the sprinklers and timers were working as we were expecting a strong heat wave (which has delivered).  I cut a wine barrel in half for planters and made sure that the chicken coop won't fall over while I'm gone.
Yesterday involved orientation for the instructors, TA's, and RA's.  With the word "talented" in its title, CTY is focused on gifted students, who are mainly economically well off, but there is a large number of scholarship students, which provides a wide variety of economic, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds.
My favorite aspect to CTY is the insistence of Zero Indifference toward bullying or harassment.  I'm not sure of the genesis of the term "Zero Indifference," but the term and approach are used by both the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network among others.
In my mind, the idea of Zero Indifference is clearest when it is seen relative to zero tolerance.  The idea is that of greater vigilance and consistent intervention in situations where there could possibly be a possibility of bullying or harassment.  According to the ADL website,  "Although there is no one right way to intervene, consistent intervention is key to establishing a school environment where all students feel safe and respected."  The idea is to make sure the seeds of bullying and harassment find no fertile ground by the constant vigilance and intervention.
The CTY Zero Indifference program ties very closely into its honor code which is based on both academic and social honor.  From the introduction to CTY's honor code, "CTY’s summer programs provide a unique opportunity for intellectually curious people from diverse backgrounds to come together in pursuit of academic challenges and growth, within a supportive community built on respect, responsibility, and trust." From the moment the students arrive at CTY, they are educated in both the honor code and Zero Indifference.  In fact, the students are exposed to the honor code at least before they ever set foot on the different campuses.
CTY's students come from across the country and across the world and at UCSC they range from 12 to 16 years old.  As I mentioned before, they are also from all sorts of economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds and are here for three weeks and thus need to be able to feel fully comfortable from the outset so they can hit the ground running and keep running academically and socially and get the most from their time at CTY.
There is absolute clarity from the start as to what is acceptable and what is not.  The staff and students go through a number of workshops with roleplaying to drive home the idea of how the students and staff are expected to treat each other.  In my experience at CTY both codes work excellently, but as with the students, it's not perfect.  However, Zero Indifference sets a very accepting and inclusive tone from start to finish.
We broached this idea of Zero Indifference at my home school last year and are going to put it out again this year and see how it works in a standard high school.  I will let you know how the students and staff buy in and how it works in general.  Have you used ideas and programs like this at your school?  If so, how did it work and how effective was it?  Please let me know.

No comments:

Post a Comment