Megan Kean, Oconomowoc, WI, firstname.lastname@example.org
As a teacher, by nature, I am a reflective individual who is continuously improving my practice. Many times, I find new ideas and new research and want to implement the ideas in my classroom. However, I frequently do not spend enough time implementing a new idea or practice. Sometimes I change course when I find something else that I believe might work better. I have learned that quality is better than quantity when it comes to throwing out past practices and implementing the new practices.
This year, as a part of TRC 7.0, my partner Peter Trapp and I are doing research on Restorative Practices and the role in the math classroom. How does Restorative Practice play a role in the math classroom? Restorative Practice, frequently known as Restorative Justice, was brought into our school. As a school, we were not satisfied with the way we were addressing behavior issues, and after some research, our school adopted Restorative Practice. Restorative Practice has five main questions that are asked as a part of acknowledging the problem and a step to take to make situations right again in the classroom.
Q1: What Happened?
Like many schools, especially middle schools, we have disruptions and behaviors in our classrooms that are not welcomed. Some students frequently interrupt the learning and create a power struggle. And their behavior was not changing. As a school, we knew we needed to do something about this. We realized that consequences were given, but a change in student behavior was not happening. Were we doing our job as educators if the behavior was not changing or improving? I think not. As we see it, part of our job is to educate students so they can become lifelong learners and individuals who can be a part of society. We needed to implement a practice that helps change and improve student behavior.
Q2: What were you thinking at the time?
We hoped the “new” idea of Restorative Practices this year was going to be a big game-changer in the classroom. However, when we heard about Restorative Practices, we were hesitant. There have been many initiatives to help improve student behavior. Would this be something that actually worked? Would this help our classrooms? We hoped the answer would be “yes.”
Q3: What have you thought about since?
We are now six months into the implementation of Restorative Practices at our school. We aren’t sure how we created a classroom community in the first place without the tools that Restorative Practice has given us. We gave it our all and really believed in the research with Restorative Practices. It has definitely changed the climate of our classrooms in a positive way. We are teaching students skills, building relationships, and increasing engagement in the math classroom.
Q4: Who has been affected by what you have done? In what way?
All students in the classroom are affected when something negative happens. Restorative Practice gives students a chance to learn how to improve behavior and to separate the deed from the doer. Students deserve to have a conversation about their behavior and have input on making it right again. Over the course of this year and reflecting on the tools that we have implemented, I have noticed a shift in students’ mindsets when something negative happens in the classroom. Both the students and I are more at ease and know that a conversation will happen that will help address the problem, fix the problem, and support all students involved.
Q5: What do you think you need to do to make things right?
If you want to use the Restorative Practices approach in your classroom, we encourage you to write down these five bolded questions that began each paragraph. Keep them handy and use them when something negative happens in your classroom. We encourage you to implement Restorative Circles in your classroom. We encourage you to be willing to take a risk to positively impact your classroom in ways that may not have seemed possible. With Restorative Practice, it is possible! Change the question when something happens from “Why did that happen?” to “What happened?” and positive results will unfold. Our relationships with students are at a new level now. We understand each other better. We know that we are all responsible for our classroom environment. We can do the teaching, and when a student steps over the line, we as a class can help guide them back in. The first step in implementing this practice is by reading and believing in the practice. It can, and will change your classroom!