Students are Central to a Culture of Respect and Rapport
Anthony was so nervous he was hitting his head against the wall to avoid going to class – his first hour at a new school. At his previous school, he did not get along well with his teacher and it spiraled downward from there. He acted out. He was SAS’ed. He was hospitalized. He was sent home for weeks. He finished the school year sitting next to the security guard – all day. For weeks. So far, today was looking no different. “You’re okay; you can go to class,” the nurse at the health clinic said after checking on the bump on his forehead.
But while Anthony (whose name is changed to protect his identity) was at the health clinic, the social worker and counselor were intercepting his classmates. “You saw what happened back there.” The third graders nodded. What he needs to get through today are some friends. Can you be his friends?”
“We will be his friends.”
When Anthony came to class, these four students, boys and girls, hugged him and walked him arm-in-arm to class. That was the last the counselor and social worker and administration heard about him that day. The counselor curiously peaked on the class during lunch. Anthony was sitting, eating with his classmates.
The students in Anthony’s class spent a good amount of time sitting in Circle last year. This started at a PD when I shared a spectrum of circles – celebration, community-building, learning, all the way down to healing and conflict circles. A second-grade teacher present liked the idea of a celebration circle – a birthday circle – for a student who was new, and very shy. Everyone in circle said, “I like you because…” and She finished, saying, “I am just glad we are all friends.” Then the class processed a rough playground fight in circle, where the fighting students cried and expressed remorse and an apology publicly. In the same week, there was high profile violent crime in the neighborhood that was covered in national news. Students processed that in circle, too.
When these second graders were working on a sorting assignment (tattling vs. reporting), they had to determine which of the prompts were frivolous and which were serious, meriting adult attention.
On the prompt, “He said he’s not my friend,” a student decided this was neither tattling nor reporting. Instead, thought outside the box and drew a Peace Circle (spelled phonetically as ‘Pese’) where the students can address their conflict through a face-to-face encounter.
This is the class of second graders that – now as third graders – became positive supports for Anthony.
Anthony’s is one of the schools that we have been working with on our PD + Coaching and Consulting model, piloted at Kilmer elementary last year.
- We offer lecture PD on Restorative Practices.
- We bolster Restorative Practices with PD on Cultural Competency, Critical Race Theory, and Trauma-informed Practices.
- We use a school-wide approach.
- We cultivate a culture of Restorative Practices.
- Teachers read articles and write reflections and discuss with one another on our online learning hub.
- We consult with the administration on fidelity to Restorative Justice Philosophy.
- We model talking circles in the classrooms and debrief with teachers on what is working and what needs adjustment.
The students who welcomed Anthony had spent a lot of time in circle.