It’s never as smooth as it should be
Perhaps the first question to ask here is why would we need restorative practice? Well, we’re a few months into the school year now. If you’re like me, this is about the time it starts to sink in that all of those grand ideas I had hoped to incorporate into my classroom this year… Yeah, it’s not quite going like I imagined.
True, when I imagined that all of my students would respect each other and be kind and come to school every day with an internal drive for learning, that was perhaps a bit too idealistic in retrospect.
Regardless, I hoped that there would be more persistence, more curiosity, and for goodness sake, less conflict. But here we are! We need to meet our students where they are, don’t we? So here’s a culture-building routine that ought to grow your students feelings of relatedness–feelings of belonging and confidence in one’s identity–while also doubling as a neat way for resolving conflict. I’m sure you’ve heard of it: restorative practices. Let’s break it down to make it as usable for you as possible.
Restorative Practice Process
Here are 3 tips when beginning to introduce restorative practices into your classroom.
- Make it positive. The most well-known structure for restorative practices is the restorative circle for resolving conflict. However, these practices are about much more than just resolving conflict. At its core, restorative practices are about building a positive culture in your classroom. The expectations in this area consistently suggest that 80% of restorative practices have a positive valence. In other words, don’t just use them when conflict arises. Instead, plan on a weekly circle that asks students to discuss the things they care about most. This builds positive relationships between your students and helps their feelings of belonging.
- Use the same structures for conflict resolution. If 80% of your restorative activities are positive, then when you need to resolve conflict, students will have a positive association with the structure you use. This simple positive association cannot be overstated. Most students (and adults?) bring negativity into conflict resolution. Restorative practices help flip that script.
- Follow the template. For positive activities, start with 5-10 minutes and a speaking stick. Begin with surface level questions (what is your favorite food?) and then go deeper (what do you appreciate about the person sitting next to you?) as your students get comfortable. For conflict resolution, be sure to only include the people involved in the conflict – sometimes that is the whole class, but it often isn’t. Use these three questions:
- What happened?
- Who was affected?
- What do you need to do to make things right?
- Finally, use positive affect sentence stems – “I felt ____ when ____ happened.” This keeps the focus on our own locus of control. It’s never “You made me feel ___,” which will likely breed more conflict.
It’s never too late
It may feel like it’s too late to establish new classroom norms and routines. Truth is, it’s never too late. If your classroom culture needs a boost, consider restorative practices.