As we interviewed Lex, an Owen Middle 6th grade student, in the hallway of his school, a group of his classmates headed our way, dragging some large bags filled with recycling. As they did so, one of the bags broke and, while still miked for the interview, Lex asked, “Do you need any help with that?" His classmates shared their thanks but got the situation under control and soon disappeared. The interaction was over in less than thirty seconds, and yet Lex demonstrated some of the fundamental benefits of something called Restorative Practices.
Lex was one of 76 students from across Buncombe County that took part in an all-day training last year on the topic. And in a few weeks, we’ll release a short video about our work to bring Restorative Practice training to our community. In it, you will hear Lex talk about why he joined Owen Middle’s Circle Keeper’s Council and how he wants to make “a good school even better” as well as hear from some of our staff about how this practice has grown and taken shape locally.
Lessons From Others
But in the meantime, we thought that it would be good for you to check out a few videos from professionals in other communities that are using this practice to improve schools and relationships during difficult times.
Bren Elliott, (now former) Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services Wake County Public Schools
"There’s research behind these restorative practices that indicate that there’s a decrease in out-of-school suspension, discipline issues, attendance issues. It really improves the school climate and creates an opportunity for young people to be able to feel like they are needed in school and valued in their classrooms.
If you feel valued, if you feel like you’re a part of the community, you’re less likely to be disruptive. If you think about that… if you feel like people value your opinion, that you have relationships with your teachers and your classmates, then you’re less likely to behave in a negative manner.
So restorative practices and particularly the community circles help students to develop pro-social behavior so they learn to control their emotions. They learn how to have positive relationships with each other and all those things contribute to success in the classroom."
Kaliyah was a 9th-grade co-facilitator at her High School in Oakland when this video was filmed. During the circle, she asked her fellow classmates, "What's the toughest thing about being a teenager?"
“In the circle, their relationships with each other kind of quiet something in them and allow them to be more present for each other.” - Teacher
“Our advisory is like a family… I know I can come in, I can talk to my community. They understand and most of the time, if it’s something I’m going through, they’ve probably already been through it before.” - Student
Liz Knapp is an educator who shares how restorative practices helps in the classroom setting especially as student grapple with tough life issues every day.
“Physical abuse. Emotional abuse. Sexual abuse. Physical neglect. Emotional neglect. Witness to violence. An incarcerated relative. Exposure to substance abuse. Mental illness in the home. And divorce. These are the ten adverse childhood experiences that researchers have linked to every major chronic illness and social issue in the US. By the time I had entered High School I had collected 7 of these 'rocks'."
Would you like to learn more about Restorative Practices? Reach out to our teammate, Kyle Garrett.