76 Students Gather Virtually to Learn Restorative Practices


76 students gathered virtually from classrooms and kitchen tables to learn to use a set of tools aimed to restore relationships when harm has occurred and help deepen their understanding and awareness of one another. The tools they learned are known as Restorative Practices and have been implemented within the schools for the past few years with our guidance in partnership with Kerry Berkowitz, a national leader in the school-based implementation of them, and our Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools partners.

Learning to Build Trust Together

Students began the training with a connection activity led by Berkowitz, who asked them to share their current mood as a weather report. They each chimed in via chat sharing their status updates on being everything from partly cloudy with a chance of sun to overcast and foggy with a light mist. Berkowitz then asked the students to imagine that they were all physically in a circle together as they would be without the continued threat of COVID in a hybrid virtual learning space. Both middle and high school students shared how nice it is to see everyone and the importance of face to face contact. These "low risk" questions, as Berkowitz later explained, allow everyone the chance to meet and warm up to being in circle with one another. These types of questions are light-hearted and fun and help build trust before moving into more difficult questions. These are the starter tools for students as they learn to hold Restorative Practice circles with their classmates and in their school clubs moving forward.


One of Many Tools in Community Schools

The rest of the day was spent in breakout sessions trying their hands at creating circles and writing guidelines that allow all students to speak from the heart, listen from their heart, trust they'll know what to say, and say just enough as they share and listen to one another. Last fall, over 100 educators, nonprofit and community leaders convened online with us and Berkowitz for both introductory Restorative Practices training as the students received as well as Proactive Circles training. These trainings and the widespread knowledge and implementation of them are one of many elements involved in community schools which help provide our students and families with the resources, opportunities, and support systems they need to succeed.