Category Archives: Restorative circles

EDCI 338 Final Project Overview: Building a Restorative Community

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Here is an overview of Suzanne Bartel and Christopher Lister’s joint EDCI 338 Professional Learning Project about Restorative Practices including Self Regulation.  

Project Goal

Our original goal was to create an online place for educators who are interested in using Restorative Practices in their classrooms to connect and share experiences.  Our plan was to take our existing Restorative Classroom Circles Wikispace and give it a facelift by adding the Restorative Practices philosophies, Compass of Shame, and the Social Discipline Window.  We also planned to engage our current Wikispace members and attract new members from our Twitter networks and local school district colleagues. With our existing restorative methods, we wanted to include more social and emotional learning into our curriculum.  We planned to introduce new concepts such as self-regulation (MindUP curriculum) into the Wikispace as a complementary addition to classroom circles.     

 

Adaptations of our Goal: The Learning is in the Journey, not the Project

This morning, we read a tweet from Mardelle Sauerborn that said “Cool how the projects are secondary to the journey.”  We couldn’t sum it up better ourselves!  Throughout our journey on this project, we have been constantly growing and learning in our EDCI #338 class discussions, school district collaboration group, Restorative Practices workshop, and our personal experiences with Restorative Practices in our classrooms.

After creating a polldaddy survey to elicit feedback from our Wikispace members and talking to colleagues already using Restorative Practices in their classrooms, we realized that we were not having much success using our Wikispace as a collaborative tool. We started to wonder if we were using the right platform to create a collaborative environment.  In one of our EDCI 338 sharing classes, we were introduced to the idea of building a Google+ Community from Jane Rees and Allison Galloway.  This platform meant that people could participate in our community without becoming a member.  They could also add their own content and participate in online conversations. At this point, we decided that our Wikispace might be best left as a resource for implementing Restorative Practices, and a Google+ Community could be used to encourage collaboration.

One interesting part of our learning journey occurred when we tried to deepen our understanding of Restorative Practices.  Several Google searches for “restorative practices” returned little useful information outside of International Institute for Restorative Practices.  We knew there was content out there but we had difficulty finding it.  Our original plan was use Diigo has a tool to collect and share bookmarks on the topic.  We attended a Hangout on Diigo hosted by Ed Tech Mentors Network and found that although it is a useful tool, it is limited in its ability to generate and evaluate content in the same that specific curation tools like Paper.li, Pearl Trees, and Scoop.it can.  We really liked the magazine style layout and ease of use that Scoop.it offered.         

 

Actions Taken:

 

Further Extensions to Project

  • After attending our Restorative Practices workshop, we realized the importance of explicitly teaching students the restorative process through storytelling.  We plan on creating a simple restorative storybook, embedding into our community, and potentially creating an electronic copy to be published on iTunes. Thanks to the expertise of Liane and Michelle

 

Reflections On Restorative Practices

Ever felt so busy putting out ‘fires’ in your classroom or dealing with challenging behaviour and classroom management issues that you felt a lack of personal connection with your students?

I have!

 

On the flip side,  have you ever felt such a strong connection with your class that you felt that you could challenge them to tackle the toughest learning obstacles without fear and anxiety?

I have felt this way too!

 

Right now I am somewhere between these two extremes.  Restorative Practices has been both my nemesis and saviour along the way.

One area of my own teaching practice that I have been focusing on this school year is building a stronger classroom community where students feel supported and support each other, where students can show vulnerability and feel safe to take risks, and where we are accountable for our actions and learn from our mistakes.  I am a firm believer that the social and emotional needs of my learners need to be met first before any academic learning and growth can occur.  That’s why I have been using the Restorative Practices framework in my classroom for over three years.

Since 2010 I have been following the Restorative Practices framework with mixed success.  Occasionally, I experience real and meaning classroom discussions, personal student growth, and culture change in my classroom, but more often than not, I have felt that my students just going through the motions.  Before attending the recent International Institute of Restorative Practices workshop in Port Coquitlam my understanding of this framework had plateaued and it was evident I was struggling to see the same value I had seen earlier in my career.

Halfway through the first day I suddenly realized what had been missing.  Bruce Schenk, director of IIRP Canada, shared some images from a picture book titled, A Restorative Story: Mary Finds Some Money about a girl named Mary who stole some money from her next door neighbour, and it suddenly clicked.  Not since the first year of implementation had I actually taken the time to properly introduce the design of Restorative Practices, or explained why this way of being was so important.  As an intermediate teacher, I know that students learn a great deal from storytelling combined with visual cues.  Soon after I returned from the conference I ordered a copy, and I am excited to share it with my students. I think it will help them to understand that building and rebuilding relationships is the essence of our community.

“Culture is like a story book; change

the stories and you change the

culture” – Unknown quote

The conference was also useful to refresh my understanding of two key concepts of restorative practices.  The Compass of Shame, based on Dr. Donald Nathanson’s work, explains how people react to shame.  Ever get the response, “It wasn’t me it was …” or the silent treatment from a student when you ask them what happened? That could be shame!  I learned that shame is not good or bad it just is.  We all experience shame to varying degree but it is how we deal with that is most important.  Nathanson explains that people who experience shame show it in one or more of the following ways; attack self, withdraw, avoid, or attack others.  Those who do not have opportunities to express shame in a safe and supportive environment may become disconnected from their community, whereas those who work within the Restorative Practices framework have a space to express their emotions and can lessen the intensity of them.

The Social Discipline Window, the work of Australian criminologist John Braithwaite, refers to the way we work with people, or in my situation how to work with students, staff, and families.  It works on the simple principle that people reacted better to leadership when leadership works ‘with’ people rather than does ‘to’ or ‘for’ them.  When I work ‘with’ students, I involve them in the decision making process and hold them accountable for their actions.  The environment is high in support and high in expectations.  This relatively simple graphic, now embedded in my mind, serves as a gentle reminder of the educator and person I strive to be.

“Human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.” John Braithwaite

 

With renewed energy I have made some plans for the future of Restorative Practices in my classroom:

  1. Return to explicitly teaching the restorative framework using Mary’s Story as an example, and remind students that the classroom is a place for building and rebuilding relationships.

  2. Attempt, in a more formal manner, to directly link restorative practices to an increase in student engagement and achievement.

  3. Continue to use classroom circles to connect each morning, and start to implement more academic circles.

  4. To be more mindful of using restorative language in all aspects of my teaching, work, and life.

Restorative Circles In The Elementary Classroom

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBAg2LhmWz8]

 

I’ve used restorative circles in my elementary classroom since the beginning of the school year and I can already feel the sense of community developing quicker than in previous years.  My school counsellor introduced my to the idea of restorative circles by handing me the book, “Restorative Circles In School.”  The International Institutes for Restorative Practices produces the book and they have a great website full of useful information.  Although circles in my classroom are in their infancy I appreciate the opportunity to sit with my students and listen to their stories, their thoughts, and really understand whether or not they’re reading for take in new learning.

Why Use Restorative Circles

  1. Builds a participatory community
  2. Establishes a classroom support network
  3. Allows for focused classroom discussion
  4. Creates an environment of trust and respect

Circles In My Classroom

  • In my grade 5/6 classroom circles take place, twice a week, on Monday mornings  and Friday afternoons.
  • We meet on Monday’s so that we can check-in after the two day weekend break.  If some of my student’s have experienced a difficult weekend I have the opportunity to give them additional supports before.
  • The circle is formed so that everyone can see each other and no one is hidden from sight.
  • Topics of discussion are specifically chosen to include all individuals and are generally light in nature while students become comfortable with sharing
  • The speaker holds an object when they speak.  Only the person holding the object may talk, the rest listen
  • Once the facilitator has shared the topic they decide which way the circle goes (clockwise/anticlockwise)

Already, I feel a deeper connection with my students after only a few weeks of the new school year and I feel the class has been exposed to a new type of support network.  Some students may offer their support to other students who might need help.  Other students may ask for help or support from another student for the day in an effort to lessen the burden they may be facing.

The most important consideration I’ve noticed so far is making sure a level of trust has been established in the circle.  This helps affirm to students that it is safe to share information and express oneself.

I would welcome connecting with other educators who are conducting restorative practices in their classrooms.