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Schools and MI are fundamentally concerned with growth and change, so its something of a puzzle why it has taken so long for the use of MI to be explored in this setting.
I visited Harper High School in South Chicago, a majestic old building in a neighborhood facing grinding poverty, violence and collapse. There are as many abandoned or destroyed homes as there are living ones. Harper High has received its share of troubles, media attention (see http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/487/harper-high-school-part-one) and even a visit from Michelle Obama. Can MI be of help in this environment?

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My good friend Richard Rutschman, an MI trainer and champion of restorative justice, spends a morning each week in Harper High with the students who are most vulnerable to failing grades, dropping out and violent gangland culture.

Richard uses MI either side of adventure games and enjoyable activities, and has has little doubt about good outcomes. His stories are remarkable accounts of how gentleness and skillful conversation can foster growth and change for young people in deep trouble in a world that is tough beyond imagination.

In Harper High School MI appears to cross cultural boundaries with ease, and its use in schools more widely is clearly on the horizon, not just with students in trouble of some kind. Richard and I have teamed with Sebastian Kaplan to write a book on MI for teachers and administrators. There are many ways MI can and probably will be used in education. Just as in criminal justice, MI rubs up against the use punishment, and offers a route to change that focuses on the use of compassionate listening to give voice to what students really want.

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It is remarkable to come across Harper High School using MI, because the school faces no shortage of pressure to discipline, in a neighborhood where anarchy, police intervention and chaos are a constant presence. Richard finds this not at all strange, because his call is to search for ways of helping the students grow up and out of dire straights. He talks with pride about the values that drive the mission of the school. MI is merely the conversational front end of something more fundamental: a view that unless you truly value young people and show respect for their ability to change, little of substance will change.

#motivational interviewing  #mi #Stephen Rollnick #high school education #deprivation


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