Teaching Tuesdays: Restorative Justice and Classroom Students

By Emily Farkas and Marjaneh Gilpatrick

teacher using restorative practices in classroom

Education leaders strive to create an environment conducive to optimum teaching and learning. Most recently, they have focused their efforts in building community through restorative practices. When implemented with fidelity, the following three key practices can establish restorative practices in any classroom.

1. Community Circles

You can build a sense of community by utilizing classroom circles at the beginning of the year. Building circles is a way to become familiar with your students and for them to learn about one another and their teachers. Conducting these circles can help students develop a stronger sense of empathy for one another as it provides a safe space for students to share about themselves and any issues that they may be facing. While these initial classroom circles can be rather informal, they can evolve to be structured to include alignment with academic standards and learning experiences. These circles can also serve as informal assessments where students can provide feedback on the learning that they have acquired as well as their interests.

2. Setting "Norms"

Oftentimes, class rules are handed to students and they may seem to be rather authoritative. By setting "norms" together, students can discuss values that should be demonstrated in the classroom in order to build and foster positive relationships with one another as well as their teachers. Instead of coming up with rules, the students create a set of classroom values that they all adhere to and wish to follow. For example, you can start the conversation with asking students to share their thoughts and opinions on their job as a student and their teacher’s job. After coming to an agreement, all students as well as the teacher will sign the poster that lists the norms and post it in the classroom.

3. Restorative Chats

Restorative chats would be utilized in a classroom when the established norms are not being followed. These will include questions that will be posed to the students who have harmed others when a norm has been broken. Such questions will include:

  • “What happened?”
  • “What were you thinking when x happened?”
  • “How do you think it made the other person feel?”
  • “How can you repair the harm that was done?”

These restorative chats can allow for students to be reflective and focus on the values that the class has established. Additionally, students can be encouraged to name their feelings using "I" statements. For example “I felt angry when you did x because I felt like you did not respect my feelings.” Implementing these three restorative practices are an effective way to build community with students in the classroom.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.