Research is showing us more and more about how suspensions do not improve a school’s environment. Zero-tolerance policies may seem like the answer to bad behavior in the heat of the moment. But they’re not the answer. This is a short-term solution, but it does not drill down into the root cause of the misbehavior. It does not try to repair damaged relationships and fails to prevent recurrences.
Restorative practices offer a long-term approach to a more equitable and respectful way to deal with bad behavior. It can also be used as a proactive strategy to create a culture of relationships and empathy.
Aiming to decrease suspensions and create a more positive school culture, the Restorative Practices approach to school discipline uses communicative techniques focused on affective statements and proactive community-building activities.
How to Get Started Implement Restorative Practices in Your Classroom
Begin to teach Mindfulness:
Our students are stressed and anxious. They have a variety of factors that add to their stress daily that they cannot control. When practicing mindfulness with your students check out the apps including Smiling Mind
, and DreamyKid
Restorative Circles: The restorative circles are a vital step to begin to build strong relationships within your classroom. During circle time, students sit in a circle and discuss group issues or reflect on their feelings. The circles can be used to check in about your students’ day, resolve conflict, or have academic conversations. Below are some questions to launch the community building process within your classroom.
What’s working well in our class community, and what’s not?
How have we each contributed to this?
If something is not working well, what should we do to fix it?
What qualities describe you when you are at your best?
What demonstrates respect?
What is something you are thankful for? Why?
Who do you look up to in your life?
What changes would you like to see in this class community?
Collaborative Class Agreements: Instead of having a set of rules on the wall or syllabi year after year, allow for the students to establish the expectations for the class in the fall. When students are given an opportunity to define the classroom norms and expectations they take ownership of their classroom.
Overall, the Restorative Practices program is based on respect, responsibility, relationship-building, and relationship-repairing. Too often our instructional staff and administrators are seen as police officers enforcing rules and disciplining students based on their bad behavior. However, this approach is not effective. Educators should be alongside their students teaching not only content and curriculum, but also character and integrity.
This can only take place if we create a culture in our schools of trust through genuine relationships between all stakeholders.