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Restorative practices 101

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

This episode is inspired by my new book (coming October 2022), "50 tips for New Teachers". I co-authored the book with Matthew Rhoads, Ed.D, Casey Jakubowski, Ph.D., and Kevin Leichtman, Ph.D. We share 50 tips for supporting new teachers throughout the year. We discuss just a single tip here.

Are you interested in learning more about the book? Join the waitlist. (Rhodes, Fecich, Jakobowski, & Leichtmen, 2022)

According to We are Teachers (2021), "Restorative justice is a theory of justice that focuses on mediation and agreement rather than punishment. Offenders must accept responsibility for harm and make restitution to victims." Restorative practice is rooted in Indigenous practices. Restorative practices build school community and respectfully address challenges caused by behavior. Instead of punishing students, these practices promote restoring relationships among students and a student taking ownership of their behaviors. There are three tiers of restorative justice.

Tier 1

The first tier focuses on prevention through building community. In tier 1, educators lead conversation circles where students can share their feelings, discuss topics or use a social-emotional check-in with students. Students feel valued and supported in this tier. They work to build trust among themselves and their teachers. In this tier, the class develops a classroom respect agreement. This agreement holds all students accountable (We are Teachers, 2021).

Tier II

Tier II occurs if a student breaks a rule or causes harm to a peer. Restorative justice provides the student with the opportunity to make amends. When this occurs, a teacher mediates conversations with those involved in the incident (We are Teachers, 2021). In this tier, the teacher must use non-judgment questions to get to the bottom of the situation. Some examples of open-ended questions that are nonjudgemental include:

  • What happened?

  • Who was impacted by the situation?

  • Why were they impacted?

  • What were you thinking during the time?

  • What can you do to make things right?

Tier III

Reintegration into the school community is the focus of Tier III. This reintegration can be due to an in or out-of-school suspension, school expulsion, or other removals of a student from the classroom. In this tier, the team must recognize that students may struggle with reintegrating into the classroom community (We are Teachers, 2021).

Restorative practices improve the school climate in many ways, including:

  • Reducing in and out of school suspensions and office referrals

  • Creates a classroom community through circles

  • Students are heard and valued

  • Strengthen social and emotional skills

  • Strengthen relationships within the classroom.

  • Promotes trust with the teacher and peers

  • Improves inclusive practices

  • Conflict resolution

  • Students advocate for themselves and others

Restorative practices range from low-level classroom conversations to more structured conversations. Restorative practices comprise a continuum of intervention. These strategies can be used daily or weekly or when a tragedy occurs in the community or school.

For more information about restorative practices

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