Implementing restorative practices in a school takes knowledge and skill. Each year, Morningside Center for Teaching Responsibility provides training and coaching to help hundreds of educators develop this capacity.
To provide additional support to educators in mastering restorative practices, we have assembled this video library, which includes publicly available videos (and several we created ourselves) that demonstrate a range of restorative practices.
What are Restorative Practices?
Restorative practices are a set of processes and tools we can use to create a caring school community and keep that community whole. The premise is that people and relationships are valued first and foremost. So when conflict arises, people make mistakes and/or cause harm, restorative practices can help them to understand the impact of their actions, heal the harm, and restore the community and the people involved. In this way, restorative practices offer a positive alternative to the punitive forms of discipline that disproportionately target students of color and push them out of our classrooms and school communities into the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
Restorative practices are most effective when they’re an integral part of a school’s culture – a culture based on high expectations, caring, and support for all. In this context, restorative practices aren’t used only to respond to conflict or disruptive, disrespectful, or harmful behavior. They are in place and put into practice throughout the school day.
Building a strong, supportive community and developing the awareness, skills, and empathy needed to maintain that community, especially when the going gets tough, are at the core of an effective restorative strategy. It all goes back to the basic human need for connection and meaningful relationships. And yet we know that no matter how strong the community, conflict will arise, mistakes will be made and people will cause other people to get hurt and upset.
When this happens, instead of simply pointing out (mis)behavior and imposing punitive consequences unilaterally, we want to guide our young people through a process that encourages them to problem solve and/or repair harm. In this way, we teach them to become (more) self-aware and effective problem-solvers who can take responsibility for the impact of their actions and make amends as needed.
So rather than pushing students out to “teach them a lesson,” we embrace them and commit to working with them at times when they may be struggling the most. This doesn’t mean we let them off the hook. Far from it. We help them understand the harm they may have caused, hold them accountable, and allow for healing. We seek to repair and restore, without causing additional harm or stigma.
Here are three aspects of a whole-school restorative approach – and links to videos that help demonstrate these aspects.
These attitudes and beliefs are what guide the restorative practices we use to build and sustain our relationships in school. A restorative mindset informs who we are and how we are with our students, what choices we make about who to engage, how and for what purpose.
- Restorative circles are at the core of building and sustaining a school community. They provide the foundational practice and build the relationships and social and emotional skills needed for resolution and restoration to be possible. When conflict arises or harm is done, we draw on these relationships and skills. The aim is for members of the community to be invested and skilled enough to be able to work towards resolution and/or repair together.
- Restorative check-ins, chats and conversations also help build, reinforce, and sustain the community.
A restorative intervention, or series of interventions, may be used instead of a punitive disciplinary intervention, or, where appropriate, to supplement that intervention. For conflict resolution, problem-solving and repair, we have a range of interventions we can turn to:
- Restorative circles are a key practice, not only for building and sustaining a community, but also for problem-solving and repairing relationships.
- Restorative conversations are mostly used to address disruptive, off-task and/or challenging classroom behaviors.
- Negotiation is a problem-solving process in which parties to the conflict work to identify their underlying needs and interests so they can come to a solution that both parties can live with.
- Restorative conferences are a highly structured process used in situations of wrong-doing and harm-doing in which it is clear who caused the offense and/or harm, and who was on the receiving end.
- Mediation is a conflict resolution or harm repair process between two or more people.
- Class meetings are a collective problem-solving process in which the class as a whole addresses issues or problems that are disruptive to some or all in the classroom community.
- Re-entry circles are a restorative circle process geared to welcoming a student back into the community after a suspension or other kind of break/removal. The goal is to set a welcoming tone, to focus on student strengths, the re-teaching of expectations, identifying necessary (community) supports and moving forward.