The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Restorative Practices

As many of you know, I earned a Master of Education degree in Educational Administration in May 2016. Over the course of the past year or so, I have had the opportunity to interview for several administrative positions throughout Illinois. It is very common for an interviewer to ask me about my approach to student discipline.

As I mentioned last April,”discipline,” to me, is not simply educator code for “punishment;” discipline is all about helping students develop self-management. As a part of this, my response to the interview question also focuses on my passion for restorative practices in the classroom. This is a concept I have been learning about for about four years, and have paid particular attention to since the passage of Illinois Senate Bill 100, which requires schools to use them to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions through the use of alternative procedures, such as restorative practices.

My school district has been using these at the middle and high school for a few years now, while I have been trying different ideas in my fourth grade classroom. Restorative practices are, simply put, focused on restoring healthy, positive relationships among students and their teachers. Some of these practices may be the Collaborative Problem Solving strategy I wrote about here, or Restorative Circles, sometimes called Classroom Circles, described here.

I facilitated my first formal restorative circle with my class this morning. Several students had been engaging in a disagreement that started with recess the day before. It turned into disruptions during their fine arts class and then spilled into the classroom. Rather than using the Office Discipline Referral form and outsourcing my authority, I had the students involved in the disagreement sit in a circle in the middle of the carpet and then had everyone else sit in a larger circle around them. As the students in the inner circle talked through the issue, they had to describe what had happened and how it made them feel. The others observed simply. One the main problem was identified, those in the other circle were able to share how the incident made them feel. Then the inner circle continued their discussion, focusing on solutions that are acceptable to all parties involved.

Restorative circles are not a quick process, but they have a much more lasting impact that traditional discipline techniques that don’t, in fact, focus so much on student-centered self-mastery and problem solving as do collaborative problem solving and restorative practices. I will continue to learn more about these practices as the year progresses, but I think we are definitely off to a great start!


3 responses

  1. msoreadsbooks

    Our district has a program for RD. Our campu is in year 2 … K, 2, and 4 started last year and the rest of us started this year. I can see how it would be helpful in a regular classroom. Not at all sure how it is going to be implemented in the library that is not in the rotation. And I will be super honest … a huge NOT FAN of circles amongst coworkers. All of whom I enjoy working with and many I have worked with for years. I just … the introvert in me is SO NOT a fan.

    August 26, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    • I think issues that take place during special classes would have to be resolved in a circle led by either the classroom teacher, the principal, or someone else who is available at the time. (The circle I did was in response to things that happened during a fine arts class but were spilling into the classroom.)

      As far as co-workers, I’d rather a restorative dialogue between just those directly involved happen in a private setting with a trusted facilitator, but I can definitely understand how an introvert would shy away from it no matter what. In that case, it may be more beneficial for the facilitator to talk to the parties separately.

      Thanks for giving me food for thought as we fine tune this process!

      August 26, 2017 at 2:37 pm

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