Did you know that cultivating a restorative classroom starts with a shift in mindset? Here are three crucial mind shifts that we can all practice to start building more restorative classrooms and school cultures
1) The first shift acknowledges that troublesome behavior is normal, and when students behave in troublesome ways they create opportunities to learn important social and emotional skills. What is important is not so much that they got into trouble in the first place, but what they learn along the way. Making things right is a powerful learning experience.
2) The second shift is a departure from the retributive model in which an authority, after taking testimony from the aggrieved party, decides guilt and assigns punishment. In restorative practices the authority figure acts more as a convener and facilitator. The initial investigation is concerned with identifying who was significantly affected by the incident. The facilitator invites them into a circle dialogue and, if they accept the invitation, helps prepare them. During the circle dialogue the problem and its impacts are explored and the group comes up with ideas on how to make things right. Usually this means the students who were the source of the trouble take specific actions that address the consequences of their choices. Consider the difference in outcomes between the authoritarian/punitive approach and the restorative approach: the first breeds resentment, alienation and shame and/or possibly an equally troublesome habit of fearing and submitting to authority; the second builds empathy, responsibility and helps restore relationships.
3) The third shift moves the locus of responsibility for well-being of the community from the shoulders of the experts to the community itself. While counseling and similar strategies have their place and are often helpful by themselves, they are immeasurably strengthened when complemented by restorative practices that challenge those who are in the circle dialogue to share information with each other and to come to agreements as a group.
Or feel free to grab the free training manual below.
We know that trying to (or even thinking about trying to) bring restorative practices into your school can feel overwhelming, to say the least. So to reignite your inspiration, here are some shining examples of schools who are succeeding at implementing restorative practices principles in creative ways.
1) Educating Hearts -- Love is More Important Than Knowledge
Our friends as Edutopia share a moving example of educating hearts, not just minds. At 3:45 you'll notice how one school is actually training fifth graders to be "Peace Helpers" and facilitate conflict resolution circles and lessons themselves instead of relying on an adult facilitator. Such a great example of moving beyond the "authoritarian" mode and empowering the children to be the experts.
2) Teaching Real-World Problem Solving Through Innovative Projects
What if we could build a school and classroom culture where problems were viewed as opportunities? This Oakland classroom is finding creative ways to do just that through an innovative agriculture project. Notice how engaged the students are and how they're collaborating together to come up with a solution.
3) Empowering Teachers to Lead Morning Circle "Family-Time"
Check out how morning circle meetings are creating a sense of family and allowing kids (and teachers) to take on greater leadership roles at this school in Maine, USA. These guys are even doing morning yoga in their circles to create a relaxed climate and teach body intelligence! At 4:56, the principal's advice for school leaders says it all:
"Once you have a culture where staff are committed to kids, it spreads like wildfire. I'm smart enough to know that as a leader of my school, I'm not the expert. My teachers are the experts. A key mindset is for leaders in schools to feel empowered to give their teachers the license to do these kinds of things."
4) Practicing the "Mushy Stuff" -- Cultivating a Culture of Caring
How do you teach kids to genuinely care for one another? This precious video might give us some clues. CARE for Kids program in Kentucky creates a culture where kids feel safe by nurturing heartfelt relationships with not just the staff but amongst the students themselves. Talk about moving beyond the problem-corrective model to a truly peaceful community...! If you're like me, you may wish to grab some Kleenex because Security Monitor, Richard Little's, description at the very end is a tear-jerker.
What are some of your favorite examples of restorative practices being used in schools?
Let us know in the comments section below so we can feature your links in our Restorative Community Library of resources. We'd love for you to collaborate on this project with us. (You can read more about the library we're building here).
Hope these videos gave you a little dose of inspiration. If so please share with any teachers, administrators, or change-agents you think may benefit so we can all transform our schools and classrooms.
Have a great weekend,
So many of you have expressed interest in learning more about restorative practices and we want to let you know that we're listening.
Which is why we're excited to announce a new free Community Library of articles, videos, infographics, training material, printables, quotes, and fun inspiration we are putting together pertaining to restorative practices in schools (and other related topics you may enjoy).
True to the restorative spirit, however, we've realized that it would be so much more restorative of us to create this resource library in collaboration with you (instead of pretending to be the internet's only all-mighty expert telling you what to think). As you likely know, restorative practice is about holding space for discussions that are healing and community-building while drawing on the wisdom of the circle's participants. Which is why we will be sharing our resources and findings but would also love to draw on your wisdom and hold space for this larger global discussion to unfold.
Which brings us to a few questions for you:
What are some of your favorite restorative practices links? ...
If you feel inspired to participate in the building of this Restorative Community Library, please share any resources you think we should include for the group. We have a very large global community and your thoughts and resources matter to greatly to us all and this movement at large. Let's get this message out there, together.
Please share a couple links to your favorite restorative resources with us:
Thanks for your help and be sure to keep an eye on our ever-growing Community Library on Pinterest. Simply click the graphic below to begin browsing.
Looking forward to seeing what great resources you have to share with our community!
Not sure what sorts of questions to explore with your class or staff?
High quality prompts are questions that give the circle its energy and focus. The circle keeper asks a question and invites everyone on the circle to respond (including the circle keeper). Some questions are proactive and are about building and maintaining community. Check-in questions are an example of this. Some prompts are about responding to specific challenges. Restorative questions are a sequence of prompts that guide dialogues leading to understanding the consequences of harmful behaviors, and agreements about how to repair those harms. Closure questions invite reflection on what has happened in the circle.
High quality prompts have these characteristics:
Want to see some example questions for your next circle meeting?
Here's a free "Quality Question Cheat-Sheet, our printable gift to you:
And if you'd like a complete introduction to Restorative Practice, help yourself to the free training manual (upper right).
Interested in guiding your classroom through a restorative circle process? Not sure where to begin? While no two circle discussions are alike, here are some common guidelines that we have found helpful in facilitating a restorative group process. Facilitators typically model these five behaviors themselves and often choose to share them with the group prior to beginning.
1) Speak from the heart: Speak not only with your head and ideas, but with your feelings. Share what is true for you based on your own experiences. When we speak from the heart we are aiming for eloquence, for choosing words that accurately communicate what we hold to be important.
2) Listen from the heart: Try to listen without judgement; let go of stories that make it hard to hear each other. An open heart makes an open mind. Even if you disagree with what someone says, take it in before you react or respond.
3) Speak Spontaneously. Wait until your turn to speak before you decide what you are going to say. Trust that the right words--or the right silence--will come to you when needed.
4) Without feeling rushed, say just enough: Keep in mind the limits of time and making room for everyone to speak. This intention is also called “lean expression.” It is related to “speak from the heart” because we often find that when we speak carefully we can express ourselves with fewer words than we would normally use, and that when we do our words often have more impact.
5) Welcome and expect different and contradictory points of view: Circles welcome and accept all points of view. We speak primarily into the center of the circle, where our diverse perspectives simmer together, and from where there often emerges a shared understanding or sense of purpose.
Circles are a powerful way of building strong community and "making things right" within in our relationships. Want to know more about how restorative circles might benefit your classroom or school?
If you haven't already, pick up your free training manual by clicking the button below.
Or, feel free to contact us directly if you'd like to discuss your situation one-on-one. We'd be happy to help you assess if restorative process circles are right for you. We won't try to sell you on restorative council unless we truly believe it is a great option for you!
Amos Clifford, Guide and Restorative Council Mentor; trainer in restorative justice, restorative dialogue with nature, and circle-keeping and the way of council; mentor.