5 Restorative Practices for Educators

By Dr. Marjaneh Gilpatrick and Tracy Vasquez

A teacher holding a conference with a student and her mother

Do educators need to address their students’ social and emotional well-being? What do they need in order to effectively address their needs? There is a growing movement in the area of restorative practices, and while the idea is not new, implementing these suggestions in the classroom has the potential to positively impact your students.

1. Self-care

In order to assist others, you must be capable of doing so. An applicable metaphor is when flight attendants remind passengers that in case of a reduction of cabin pressure, they must secure their oxygen face masks on themselves before helping those who need assistance. So in order to make the best possible difference in your students’ lives, it is important for you to get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and lead a balanced lifestyle.

2. Reflect on the “Why” of Your Teaching

It’s always a good practice to remember why you chose to be an educator. Sometimes, a gratitude journal may provide the perfect opportunity to reflect on the great things that led you to be an educator and identify occurrences during the day that align with those reasons. For example, you may be keen on motivating students to reach their full potential. And on one particular day, you asked a student about his soccer game and motivated him to be more actively engaged in the academics throughout the day.

3. Build Meaningful Relationships

We have all heard the adage, “it’s all about relationships.” As an educator you are in a position to model exemplary and meaningful relationships. Building these relationships with students, families and colleagues can lead to healthy and strong interactions within the community. This can be done by learning more about the community in which you serve and becoming more involved in community organizations and events. To show your support for your students and their families, you can attend their athletic events, art shows, musical performances or cultural celebrations.

4. Respectfully Resolve Conflicts

Inevitably, conflicts may arise between students, between you and a student, or between you and another member of the community, such as a student’s family member. It’s always good practice to have established boundaries and norms for instances when conflicts arise. When they do, you can remind everyone about the previously agreed upon norms and proceed to utilize conflict resolution techniques to calmly arrive at a solution. Some schools and organizations engage in restorative justice practices in which the person who was harmed is able to share his or her feelings about the incident with the individual who caused the harm. By engaging in calm discussions about the incident, both parties can arrive at an acceptable solution.

5. Build Resilience in Your Students

Your students may face challenges, stressors or traumatic events which effect their well being at school. To address this, you can incorporate positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), and other positive effective classroom management supports. This, in combination with other restorative practices, can help students learn about their emotions, process feelings and grow from difficult situations. In addition, you could provide activities in mindfulness or yoga to allow for additional processing time and to strengthen your students’ resilience in handling stressful situations.

When you engage in these practices, you are not only taking care of your own physical and emotional well-being, but also you are modeling them for your students. After all, next to their family members, you are the one with whom they spend most of their days.

Want more? Check out all of the articles from Teaching Tuesday and return each week for a new post. To learn more about the College of Education and our degree programs, visit our website and join in our efforts to elevate the education profession by visiting our Lopes Teach Up page.

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