The Worst School I’ve Ever Been To, a video from the International Institute for Restorative Practices, follows the stories of three students at a Community Service Foundation/Buxmont Academy (CSF Buxmont) school/day treatment program for troubled youth in eastern Pennsylvania. (CSF and Buxmont are sister organizations of the IIRP.) The video is both an instructional documentary showing a variety of restorative practices and group processes used in a therapeutic setting and an emotionally moving story about young people working to change their behavior and achieve personal goals, and the counselors who are trying to help them.
The video begins at the start of the school year and follows the progress of three students—Tim, Walt and Jamie—throughout the entire school year. The title comes from a comment made by Tim early in the school year saying CSF Buxmont is “the worst school I’ve ever been to.” He especially doesn’t like the “group bullshit” and having to “open up and talk to people.”
In the beginning of the school year, the group works on establishing norms, which include confronting negative behavior and providing feedback on positive behavior. In a morning “check-in” group, a student who had threatened another student the day before tells what he did, apologizes, describes how people were affected and explains how he will behave differently in the future. Other groups include emergency groups for dealing with urgent issues, feedback groups, drug-and-alcohol abuse recovery training groups, family issues groups and inspirational readings and discussion.
Interviews with students provide perspective on their opinions of the school and of their own progress in the program. Footage of classes, field trips and other activities show the other elements of the program.
The IIRP’s SaferSanerSchools program provides training for alternative and public school teachers and administrators in “restorative practices.” They also offer a visitation/study program for anyone interested in spending a day or several days at one of CSF Buxmont’s six schools.