Restorative practice is a big undertaking and is best done school or district wide. So if you are a classroom teacher, where can you start?
How Do I Lay a Foundation for Restorative Practices?
At the beginning of the year, build a strong, inclusive foundation. Building an inclusive classroom is not about what’s in the books or on the walls, it’s about building community. Establishing and imparting a vision for an inclusive, supportive learning community can be done on every grade level. We’ve all seen the posters; “In this classroom we are kind, honest, respectful, etc.” But in a world where people are so often everything but, how do we teach those skills?
First, tell your students that everyone is an important part of the learning community and explain that being excluded hurts. Teach them to notice who is being excluded and to invite them to the table/team/group. Remind them of how great it feels to be included and ask for examples. Then teach them to invite others into their groups. Teach them to notice when someone is being excluded. Explain that they don’t have to be besties with someone to make room for them.
Second, Teach civil disagreement with games like This or That and Would You Rather. Having students pick a side and justify their answers using ‘kind words’ is a skill. Teach them to accept differences in opinion and not to be emotionally tied to their choices. The “my choice is good, your choice is bad” mentality divides us.
Finally, Use collaboration to build community. Use teams that work together and help each other. Have students discover learning more with the help of the community of learners than from you. Set collective goals with collective rewards. The more students can engage with each other, the deeper the connection.
Once students feel connected, they begin to hold each other accountable. And when someone violates the code, the ground is fertile for the restorative process.
If you have further questions about what this looks like in practice, please feel free to connect over Twitter, Instagram or per email at 5SmallBites@gmail.com.