Photo by Jonathan Kozowyk
Study Skills: Des Floyd, Ed.L.D.
You've heard of moot court? The activity at law schools where students simulate court proceedings as a way to turn the theoretical into the practical? Des Floyd, Ed.L.D., thought, Why not create something similar for secondary school students but, instead of teaching law skills, present them with common experiences that teach compassion? Last spring, the classroom activity, called Care Court, earned Floyd a finalist slot in the Dean’s Challenge, a contest where Ed School students worked alongside Making Caring Common to develop simple education ideas that promote empathy.
Floyd says he used a similar exercise when he wanted his Florida middle and high school students to understand that it’s okay to question things. It was a lesson he learned early after moving as a kid from Boston, where he attended a progressive public school, to a traditional middle school in Florida that didn’t encourage questions from students.
“It was the first time I went to a school where the desks were in a row and students were encouraged to be silent,” he says. “Everything said order, control, and compliance.”
In contrast, Care Court encourages not only questions, but also lots of back and forth. It’s a safe space for students to actively think through real-life situations that happen both in and out of school and where the issue, not the student, goes on trial.
“Take bullying,” he says. “With bullying, lots gets lost because students are afraid to speak up or they think it’s just when something really bad happens.” But bullying can be seemingly innocent, like making fun of someone online.
For example, “a student is walking through the hall and someone takes a photo without them knowing, alters the image, and shares it,” he says. “Others laugh and make fun of the student. With Care Court, instead of just punishing the student who took the photo, you put the issue on trial.”
Working in small groups (Floyd likes to say that in life, no one works alone), students first decide who is going to take on what role. Investigators gather details. Perspectors take on the perspective of those involved, asking questions like, how might putting yourself in the other person’s shoes make you feel? Reporters decide how the case could read in the newspaper. And judges talk over how the case might get decided based on evidence. Floyd stresses that students, no matter what role they take on, need to constantly ask, “Are we thinking through the challenge?”