Restorative Justice in the Classroom

By Skylar Primm, 6–12 Environmental Educator

McGraw Hill
Jun 9 · 5 min read

Maintaining a Restorative Mindset

At the end of February 2020, just before COVID, I spent two days and nights in Itasca, Illinois at the Coalition of Schools Educating Mindfully’s 2020 Educating Mindfully Conference. I registered back in the fall, expecting to learn a great deal about mindfulness and yoga in the classroom, with perhaps a smattering of social-emotional learning included. I certainly did get all of that, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the conference also had major threads of diversity, equity, and inclusion woven throughout.

Taking a Restorative Walk

Last fall, three high school students in my advisory were having trouble getting along. From the outside, it seemed obvious that their struggle, which started during a fraught morning circle discussion, was caused by mutual misunderstanding rather than fundamental disagreements. At High Marq, our first instinct is always to give students the opportunity to work out their challenges themselves, but after a couple of days of false starts, I decided that I needed to step in. So, on a chilly but sunny day, I brought Trev, Lyssa, and Grey outside for a walk around the school garden.

  • What were you thinking and feeling at the time?
  • What are you thinking and feeling now?
  • What impact has this had on you and others?
  • What can we do to make things right?
  1. It removed the pressure for direct eye contact, which can be especially difficult for students who have experienced trauma.

Embracing a Restorative Culture

This winter, two second-year students, Thea and Brynne, were talking in a corner, which in my experience is a pretty good sign that a teacher should investigate and offer assistance. It turned out that they were discussing how best to handle a challenging situation with a newer student, Lennox. Lennox was struggling to find her place in the school culture. To Thea and Brynne’s eyes, she had been showboating to get attention, which they perceived to be contrary to a school culture based on acceptance and equality, not popularity.

Circling Back

A mindset isn’t an end point to reach, it’s a balance to maintain. We’ve gotten to where we are right now at High Marq through a relentless focus on solutions over punishments, daily use of circle practices, and everyone keeping their fingers on the pulse of the community. I practice passively listening throughout the school day as my students interact and actively listening when conferencing one-on-one with students.Throughout the uncertainty of this past year, when we weren’t always together in one room, I my work with Restorative Justice has required new skills and taken different forms. No matter what, I continue to figure it out alongside my students as we go along.

Questions for Readers

  • What does restorative justice look like in your school?
  • What do you do to develop restorative culture in your school?
  • How do you develop and maintain a restorative mindset?

Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for PreK-12 educators.

Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for PreK-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

McGraw Hill

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We apply the science of learning to create innovative educational solutions and content to improve outcomes from K-20 and beyond.

Inspired Ideas

Resources, ideas, and stories for PreK-12 educators. We focus on learning science, educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

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