Transforming School Cultures – Focus on Student Agency & Equitable Learning

Over the last 15 years, Sound Discipline has offered professional development that infuses social emotional learning with trauma-informed, culturally responsive, and restorative practices. Instead of advocating ways that adults can “fix kids,” our workshops and trainings focus on supporting the adults to shift their own mindset, and to consider approaches that center the dignity, voice, and agency of all young people.

It’s been highly effective. With our support, our school and district partners get at the root causes of discipline disparities, increase student skills, and support educators to integrate practices that profoundly shift the classroom and school-wide culture. It’s powerful to see and feel the results.

Being Explicit About Equitable Learning Environments

Over the last several years, we’ve taken our commitment to equitable learning further. Our Director of Program, Stacy Lappin says, “It wasn’t enough to know that practices we advocated – like more student agency and voice – ultimately lead to more equitable communities. We needed to be explicit about how these practices for educators build equitable learning environments in classrooms, and why that matters.”

Our August 2022 hybrid workshop – 22 participants in-person and 8 online, from 6 different school districts!

Introducing — Rooted Relationships: Growing Equitable Learning Communities

Building on our solid research-based foundations, and on the insight and experiences shared by our educational partners, in the summer of 2022 we launched Rooted Relationships: Growing Equitable Learning Communities. In addition to core concepts based in Adlerian philosophy, Rooted Relationships draws heavily on systemic oppression frameworks, trauma and brain science research, attachment theory, and experiential (including somatic) education and therapy.

We learned how to create equitable learning environments in an online format during the pandemic. From those critical lessons, we designed this workshop to support inclusion for our participants, whether they join us online or in person.

Eight Adult Mindsets

Rooted Relationships emphasizes eight educator/adult mindsets that are core to growing equitable, restorative classrooms and school communities:

  • cultural responsiveness
  • self-regulation
  • behavior is communication
  • connected firmness
  • encouragement
  • mistakes & repair
  • student agency & voice
  • solutions focus

There are teacher practices and student activities informed by each of these mindsets throughout the workshop.

Building on the Class Meeting Framework

Rooted Relationships goes into depth using a framework for educators to support student skill building that we call Pathway to Problem Solving Class Meetings. The framework covers three major components:

  • Build Community – Participants learn about and practice trying out approaches to building community and connection in the classroom.
  • SEL Foundation Skills – Participants break down big concepts into specific skills to teach and practice self-regulation, communication, valuing differences, mistakes and repair, and problem solving. Workshop participants practice these skills in community.
  • Class Meeting Prep Lessons – Participants see a classroom meeting demo video and practice aspects of effective class meetings, including meeting logistics and strategies for problem-solving.

To integrate all the concepts and components, participants have time for reflecting, discussing, and learning from the wisdom of the educators in the room.


The Pacing Guide

Developed in response to a request from and collaboration with Campbell Hill Elementary, in Renton, Washington, the Sound Discipline Pacing Guide is a treasure-trove reference to plan SEL curriculum and hone daily practice. Expanded and updated annually since 2017, the Pacing Guide has three sections:

  • The Calendar: An interactive month-by-month guide to plan your implementation of Sound Discipline’s model. Each month includes SEL focus areas, relationship building ideas, and intention setting regarding the core educator mindsets. Daily suggestions for lessons are laid out for each month. Educators can follow the day-by-day plan or create their own schedule using the index of lessons & activities.
  • The Adult Tools for Supporting Students: A wellspring of specific ideas for practicing the eight educator mindsets, including resources for building relationships with students and responding to challenging behaviors.
  • The Path to Class Meetings: A supplemental resource with lessons, activities, tips, and resources that will deepen understanding and support implementation of effective student-led problem-solving class meetings.
Our August 2022 hybrid workshop for the Tukwila School District with webcam set up for online participants.

Workshop Formats

We rolled out the new Rooted Relationships workshops this summer in a two-day, 8:30- 4:30pm hybrid format with the option to attend in person or online. This fall, we are offering a 5-week hybrid format where educators come together for three hours each week in person or online.

Participants Envisioning What is Possible

Sound Discipline facilitators are excited about the incredible engagement, energy, connection, and optimism they are seeing from Rooted Relationships participants. Participant feedback backs that up!

 “This workshop is amazing! It is packed full of community building, SEL and class meeting lessons, and activities that are foundational for changing/improving a classroom environment.”

“Helpful, practical, useful, extremely beneficial to support my students in developing a strong, supportive learning community of good humans.”

“Building the relationships in the classroom, before you tackle standards – that was eye opening!  Kids cannot learn if they are in crisis mode. Their mindset must first be on feeling safe.”

Rooted Relationships is supporting educators to envision what is possible in an equitable learning community and to take steps toward that vision.

To learn more about Rooted Relationships: Growing Equitable Learning Communities, or any of our programs, check out our website – You can also email us at or call 206-782-1595. Let’s start a conversation about your vision!