Masked teacher teaching elementary school children.
Restorative Practices for Friends School Educators and Leaders

 

“I want to learn to address conflict early before it escalates and goes to the top.”

“We’re kind of done with the punitive side of things, there is no healthy closure to that.”

“I want to build the strengths of teachers who are working with students so they never have to come to us (administration) in the first place.”
 
These were some of the hopes and desires expressed by educators at the opening of the Restorative Practices (RP) workshop hosted by Friends Council in November. The workshop introduces a relationship-based approach to discipline and conflict resolution. Central to the Restorative Practice framework is engaging teachers in the process and practice of leading proactive community-building circles. Trained at the International Institute for Restorative Practices, Ida Trisolini and Christel Butchart of Carolina Friends School’s Peaceful Schools North Carolina program led the workshop. This was the second consecutive year Friends Council has offered the Restorative Practice workshop for Friends school educators. 

“Restorative Practice is a mindset. It uses circles to deepen relationships, to proactively build relationships,“ says Ida Trisolini, staff clerk and middle school teacher at Carolina Friends School (NC). She helped design the conflict resolution program at Carolina Friends School and has presented nationally on teaching conflict resolution. “It involves respecting all voices – every person in the circle has something to say and we listen. The goal is to respond to harm before it gets to the level of the dean of student life.” Trisolini sees big parallels between Quaker practice and Restorative Practice. 

Restorative Practices is about both building relationships and repairing harm.  If we invest in relationship building, it will not only impact a healthy school culture, but students will be able to thrive academically, with a sense of safety and belonging in the classroom.  When there is a need for repairing harm or restoring trust, Restorative Practices is not punitive, but sees conflict as an opportunity for problem solving and student growth.  This aligns with the Quaker values of truth seeking, seeing the Light in everyone, and a commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflict.  

What better way to convey the impact of this workshop than to hear from educators themselves. We invite you to read the following reflections from two recent participants from Abington Friends Schools (PA): Joanna Upmeyer, 9th Grade Dean and Tina Yen, Dean of Students. 

Restorative Practice Workshop Reflection from Tina Yen, Dean of Students, Abington Friends School:
Each school’s culture is informed by a complex web of human relationships and connection points. A Restorative Practices (RP) framework can not only help us to consider how we as individuals can strengthen our interpersonal relationships with students or colleagues, but also inform how school leaders can build human systems in schools that create cultures of belonging and inclusivity. 

During the workshop, one of the presenters offered an example of using a circle with faculty and staff to ask, “How do you like to receive feedback?” While seemingly simple, the question poses an opportunity to really strengthen teacher-administrator relationships and invites individual voices into planning and designing around professional learning and evaluations. Restorative Practices like proactive circles that invite input create greater buy-in, trust, and understanding around expectations for adults as well.

As Dean of Students, attending the Friends Council Restorative Practices workshop with a team was invaluable. Recently, our team, including the 9th Grade Dean, Assistant Middle School Director, Health, Wellness, and PE Department Chair, and Upper School Counselor - received a grant from Abington Friends School’s Fourth Century Center for Teaching and Learning to build a peer mediation program grounded in RP. Our goal is to train students, using tools and principles of RP, to run circles and lead conversations around healthy peer relationships, establish community agreements, and mediate conflict. 

Implementing Restorative Practices is not limited to our work as educators with students. It also holds the possibility to transform adult relationships within a community. By intentionally strengthening our community connections, empowering student voices, and building those bonds of trust, we can work towards building schools that better center the dignity and humanity of each individual.  

Restorative Practice Reflection from Joanna Upmeyer, 9th Grade Dean, Abington Friends School:
The most impactful takeaway for me of the Restorative Practices (RP) in Quaker Schools workshop was one line: “It moves at the speed of trust.” Whether we are referring to peer-to-peer or student-adult relationships, we cannot meaningfully grow and reflect and move toward right relationship with one another after conflict if we don’t trust one another.  And trust takes time.
Trust directly ties to my work as the 9th Grade Dean at Abington Friends School. Grade deans work to implement social and emotional learning curriculum within the school’s advisory program. This work is particularly important in 9th grade when the grade expands with new students and social groups shift, as well as when students encounter new challenges inside and outside of the classroom. Each 9th grader is assigned a faculty member as their advisor who they meet with weekly in a small cohort of their peers. Sometimes advisory time is skill-building or instructive, but most of the time, it’s a moment in their week to build connections with their advisor and group. (In the language of 14-year-olds, it’s time to have snacks and chat.)  In advisory, we sit in circles and ask questions in which each student shares their perspective. Students practice sharing honestly and vulnerably with one another, and practice deep listening.  In this way, trust develops in the group. While this is work that we already do at Abington Friends School because we are a relationship-centered school, the Restorative Practices workshop affirmed that these informal connections points we do well are also restorative practices. As we build connections, we are doing the bulk of RP work, which is proactive, bolstering our connections before conflict arises.  

 
 

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