Tirelessly dealing with the same unexpected behaviors? Losing valuable instruction and learning time due to disruptions? Wish dinner conversations weren’t filled with your daily discipline issues? Consider restorative practices!
Restorative practices focus on community building in your classroom. Students work together to set expectations. By explicitly describing them and agreeing to the standard, achievement of expectations is objective and identifiable by every student. This fosters an environment of communal accountability.
In a traditional approach, community building time sometimes manifests itself as the teacher telling students what the rules are, the “don’ts” if you will. This can send a message that the purpose of good behavior is to avoid “getting in trouble”, which sometimes can include being removed from class for minutes, hours, or days. The teacher becomes the “police officer”, charged with catching all misbehavior, punishing it, and protecting the innocent.
The nature of restorative practices provides expectations (rather than rules) of behavior to model. Meeting expectations strengthens the community. Respecting, contributing to, and being a part of the community is valued. Not meeting expectations lets down the community, and is an infraction of the formal or informal contract the community created and each individual co-signed. Being exiled from the community is in no one’s best interest, so the class collectively works together to protect the integrity of the community while also addressing behavioral infractions. Leveraging respect for the community and utilizing the tool of empathy, students restore damage, repair relationships, and re-visit agreed upon norms.
Restorative circles are one way to configure regular and routine community building time. When used only to address misbehaviors, restorative circles are futile tasks associated with empty “discipline”, so be sure to incorporate them as the platform with which your classroom community handles everyday business. For more on circles and other restorative practices to employ in creating your classroom community, check out these 5 strategies.