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[Weekly Inspiration] Use Restorative Practices to Build Community in the Classroom

[Weekly Inspiration] Use Restorative Practices to Build Community in the Classroom

The National Education Association (NEA) recently profiled a couple of special schools in Colorado that have worked to find a new way to resolve conflict among their students.

At Dora Moore School in Denver, Colorado, the school week doesn’t start off with instruction right away. Instead, the week begins with “circle conversations,” where students talk about what they think, feel, or imagine with a circle of their peers.

“When you go to school here, you get to know each other,” says Trinity, a fifth-grade student. “At my old school, we never got to know each other—or to understand each other.”

These circle conversations, also known as “peace circles,” are one small part of an ideology that Dora Moore’s teachers have adopted over many years of training and development. These “restorative practices” place an emphasis on a school community built upon kindness, instead of consequences.

Alongside conflict-resolving peace walks, daily positive feedback meetings, and one-on-one check-ins with dedicated restorative practice specialists, these exercises have helped Dora Moore drive down suspension rates and drive up indicators of achievement.

Teachers from around the nation routinely visit schools in Denver that have put restorative practices in place. These teachers see the conflict resolution that takes place between students and teachers, the sense of togetherness fostered by the constant communication, and the tone that is set every day by teachers actively working to implement restorative practices.

“The main thing that struck me, the thing that sums it all up, is the level of trust and respect in the building,” said Erika Chavarria, a Maryland teacher who last year visited Denver’s North High School, another school using restorative practices. “It was very clear that students were trusted and respected [by educators], and it was very clear that—because the students received that level of trust and respect and love—they gave it in return.”

Check out this article from the NEA about restorative practices in schools, and remember that a simple conversation between peers can solve a lot of problems in our everyday lives.

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