We Must Transform Our School Discipline Policies | #teachforamerica | #kids

The value of Restorative Justice comes in the form of storytelling in which we can be vulnerable. Storytelling promotes learning through compassion and helps us cope with our struggles by acknowledging our experiences. Our ancestors taught around camp fires, telling stories of values where lessons were passed down to future generations. Restorative Justice practices encompass these ideas and create a space for deep conversations.

These places of dialogue emphasize social-emotional learning while developing crucial interpersonal communication skills. In a remote world we can still create a space for our students to receive support for traumas with restorative coordinators, counselors, and social workers.

The process is demanding. We must encourage our students to explore their relationship with humanity and partake in an inquisition around morality. Let’s remember we are cultivating the young minds of human beings who should be striving to be the best version of themselves, whether in school or online. 

However, we know there is no such thing as a perfect world and there will always be conflicts. Some students will demand more support than others. The traumas they’ve experienced should only motivate us to provide the emotional support they need. These are the students I invite to hold equitable dialogues and assist them in their reflective growth practices. Schools or remote schools should be utilized to learn the skills students will need to deal with real-world situations.

As an educator, I’ve introduced work around reflection and meditation for students to center themselves when dealing with difficult situations. We discuss their struggles and celebrate their growth. When conflicts occur, we find ways to teach students how to make things right. If a student is having difficulties, bring in peers who can support them in their journey to restoring balance. Have them make commitments by designing actionable steps they can take to progress. We are educators who should no longer be policing our students, especially in their own homes.

In my Restorative Justice journey this remote year, students have been invited to meet in digital circle conversations when conflicts occur or support is needed. Students should see these spaces as a place they can express their concerns, address any harms, and make requests to prevent further struggles. A strong community and a strong sense of relationship allows the groundwork for creating harmony. This process prevents many disruptions or behaviors that are occurring in the classroom, especially remotely, which is causing further distress to our students.

As educators, our conversations with students and our being attentive to their traumas will begin to heal the hurt inflicted by our educational systems. We must commit to the work, especially in dealing with a racist culture that places blame on Black and Brown students but excuses the mistakes of white students with compassion. We are all human, we all have traumas that require healing; it is our natural impulse to yearn for discourse when we hurt. Let’s begin that restoring process for all our children so they can become agents of change who continue to heal the world. We have a chance to use this moment of remote learning to dismantle and rebuild an alternative system that benefits all students.

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