Q: Do restorative practices have to be implemented as the overall top down goal or can it be used as part of an existing overall goal?(i.e., MTSS)Q: Recommendations around not making restorative practices “just one more thing”…
A: At Denver Public Schools (DPS), we are seeing a lot of success with using MTSS-language to help schools understand that RP can’t just be reactive (Tier 2 & 3) but also has to be proactive (Tier 1). We’ve found that most schools are also more receptive to seeing restorative practices as a guiding philosophy that existing systems can be integrated into, rather than an additional “program” added to educators’ already very full plates.
The diagram below also includes how the DPS discipline matrix fits in with RP and MTSS, but I hope it is still a useful visual.
Q: Getting administration on board when autonomy is honored in the building?
A: Restorative practices only work when all parties involved are using their authentic voice, which includes the adults in the building. While the school might adopt restorative values and train in the practices, it is essential that adults are genuinely themselves when they use those new tools and uphold restorative values. For example, a middle school I work with has a former Marine and a mother of three young children that are two of the most restorative educators in a building filled with otherwise restorative educators. I have head the former Marine talking in the hallway with a student. If I had just listened to his tone and body language, I would have thought he was being punitive, but the words he was saying were “Don’t you understand how much I care about you and want you to succeed.” The mother of three young children, on the other hand, is a nurturer. Both of these styles are restorative. And the school actually highlights this individuality of restorative voice by having five or six different teachers model restorative conversations at the beginning of every year so staff can see a variety of styles as they work to find their own.
Q: How can I use restorative practices to stop disruptive behavior in the moment, but have a conversation with them later?
A: We still have many other tools that we can use for classroom management: redirections, proximity, relocating the student to another place in the room, allowing the student to take a break in a way that makes sense in your school and is developmentally appropriate. That being said, it is sometimes helpful to have something more structured to work with. A high school in Denver uses something called the Six R’s. The caveat I would give is that it is incredibly important to know your students because, for example, some might require an additional redirect or two. These tools can sometimes be used to escalate students along a ladder until the teacher can justify sending them out of the room.
Q: If I can’t get buy-in from my principal, what should I do?
A: I wanted to share a quote from a recent conference I attended: “I don’t need permission to be restorative in my own classroom.” You can implement at a classroom level or a team level. I would then collect any data you can — surveys, tracking circles and restorative conversations, etc. If you have a principal that you think you can sway or in the event that you need to defend what you are doing in your classroom, you will have the data you need to prove “this stuff works.”
Q: Can we start small? Or do we have to go “all in”?
A: Using pilot classrooms or grade levels have been highly successful in some of our schools in Denver. I highly recommend selecting a diverse group of teachers to work with so that, when you launch school-wide, you will have educators with a variety of experiences that can share with whole school the impact they’ve seen in their classrooms.
Q: Should a restorative practice always be just a conversation, or is there ever an action that students should take to repair community?
A: The conversation should always result in some sort of action to repair any harm caused. This might look like a teacher committing to do weekly check-in with a student, a student committing cleaning up the physical space of the classroom, or a couple students agreeing to make up learning time for others caused by their disruption by offering tutoring for other students.
Q: What collection tools do you use for data collection?
A: Our tracker is how we collect support staff data (what kids we meet with, how many RPs are happening, etc). This is the template of our tracker that can be shared: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Bmtsm24-znor7LDadAsms7YXgah8ZXFIXFDoOYl0IQE/edit?usp=sharing
Q: How do you schedule workshops/PD for teachers?
A: We send out emails of when we are offering PD (for example the PDU book study about Better than Carrots or Sticks) and have asked for feedback on good times for the majority of participants. Otherwise our official RP PD is during green week before the kids come back in the fall. That way we have all staff participating.
Q: If you are not able to train total staff at one time, who would you train first?
A: I feel like in order for Support Staff (Deans, RP Coords, Social/Emotional staff) to be on the same page, they would all need to be on board with RP values. Then after that perhaps teacher leads might be a good next step.
Q: How do you support scholars who go to a high school that may not implement RP?
A: We freely share contact info with students to keep in touch and seek support if they don’t have a trusted adult or RP in their new school. We also do a lot of messaging that these are skills they can use whenever and they can lead themselves.
Q: How do teachers/admin handle parents who are non-responsive/ do not answer phone calls or email?
A: That’s a tricky situation across schools. Things we have tried: home visits, positive phone calls home, reaching out about non-academic events happening at our school. I think the biggest thing is to not give up. It can be discouraging when you reach out to a guardian and they are non receptive or flat out refuse to come into the school (that happened to me twice with the same parent this year), however they have still surprised us with picking up the phone and being supportive of our interventions.