Schools across the country are being urged to adopt a restorative approach as an alternative to suspensions that could disproportionately affect students of color.
But restorative approaches don’t just replace punitive disciplinary methods. You can significantly improve the school climate and enhance the social and emotional skills of young people and adults. Instead of using punishments and rewards to influence student behavior, restorative approaches address the underlying causes of students’ hurtful behavior and encourage them to care for and respect the inner desire of others.
Transitioning to a restorative approach is not easy. Here are six lessons we learned while introducing these practices to NYC public schools.
- The restorative approach is about building community and strengthening relationships.
Restorative approaches are based on the idea that when we feel part of a supportive community, we become respectful and accountable to others in that community.
Schools can encourage this sense of community through daily or weekly circles, consultations, or in every class—as long as teachers receive the necessary support to facilitate practice. Circles can help participants get to know each other better and create a sense of empathy and connection. Adults can build effort by modeling cooperative, respectful behaviors themselves. Adults can also have their circle, creating a safe space where they can also connect and explore challenges.
- Circles are powerful when you understand the process of respect.
The circle draws on the tradition of indigenous peoples: they form a circle around an object that is important to the group. You pass a speaker and everyone has to wait for the speaker to come to them before they can speak – including the host. In the circle, everyone is a participant and a guardian; no one is in charge, no one is an observer. Once students are familiar with the looping process, they can become co-custodians.
Respecting all of these practices requires discipline, but it is the key to Circle’s power. The circle gives everyone a unique opportunity to share their feelings and experiences. Over time, the circle becomes a safe space where everyone feels heard and included. This is valuable in school or anywhere.
- Circles can be reinforced by a curriculum that successively builds skills
This circle naturally challenges participants to use social and emotional skills they may not have fully developed, including active listening, managing strong emotions, and respecting differences. An organized syllabus and a structured curriculum guide Circle Keepers through building these skills step by step.
- You can choose from a range of restorative responses when things go wrong
Circle provides a foundation to both prevent problems and help manage them when they arise. You can also use a mediation process or problem-solving group meetings to resolve issues. Restorative interventions may be appropriate when a serious injury occurs: the person who caused the injury meets other people, often including the injured person. They reflect on the damage and agree on how to fix it. The person who caused the damage has the opportunity to truly understand the impact of their actions, to be heard and understood, to repair the damage, and to be welcomed (recovered). ) to the community.
This may have a more positive and lasting effect on a person than punishment or exile. The process can also provide insights for everyone else.
- Everyone needs to be part of incremental change
Applying restorative processes requires skill. Ideally, a full member of the school staff can act as a specialist/coordinator for the recovery practice. But everyone in the school needs to embrace this approach. This is challenging because viewing harm as a teachable moment (rather than an opportunity for punishment) runs counter to many ingrained habits and social messages. For these reasons, transitioning to restorative practice requires a thoughtful and gradual transition.
- It requires a dedicated principal and the whole school planning
Transitioning to a restorative approach takes time and commitment. Ideally, school leaders will convene a collaborative team (including students) to review and rebuild the school’s disciplinary policy and develop a phased implementation plan that includes staff support.
Many people are shocked by the power of restorative practices. As the principal of one of the Bronx schools who introduced them said, “We realized we hadn’t fought a single fight, physically or verbally, in 12 weeks. Because we built trust. We created a kind of An atmosphere of courtesy and respect.” This atmosphere is good for everyone, students and teachers alike.
About the article
Schools across the country are being urged to adopt a restorative approach as an alternative to suspensions that could disproportionately affect students of color. In this article, we have discussed the introduction of restorative practices to schools for their betterment.
Digital Marketer with over 15 years of experience. Certified Digital Marketer and Educator by Google, HubSpot, and many other companies. An ex-employee @uber and @zomato