I am always looking for new resources regarding the use of restorative practices in the classroom and it seems over the past year or so there have been some really great guides and readings developed for educators.
Happy Reading –
I am always looking for new resources regarding the use of restorative practices in the classroom and it seems over the past year or so there have been some really great guides and readings developed for educators.
Happy Reading –
Tags: alternative approach to classroom management, alternative approach to discipline, Circles, community building, Restorative Justice for teachers, Restorative Justice in the classroom, Restorative Practices, Talking Piece
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As I’ve mentioned before, I work in Regent Park. The shooting at the Eaton Center on June 4th, 2012 was tragic and my thoughts are with the victims and their families. The Husbands family are also victims, and my thoughts are with them as well. The media has (day-by-day since the shooting) been actively demoralizing the victim who suffered the fatal shoot. There has been little effort to report on the loss his family has suffered and how it has been affecting them to lose a son/sibling/cousin/nephew. Instead, each day it’s a new detail about his criminal activity and as a result it spawned a stream of ignorant and heartless responses to his death on online article responses.
The media has been reporting on the crackdown the Toronto Police Services intend to embark on as a result of the tragic shooting.
But why crackdown now?
Excuse my aggressive wording, but as a result of the shooting affecting citizens who are not “gangsters”, the youth I work with and their families will be dealing with an invasion by the TPS in the form of TAVIS and Project Post in an effort to help the rest of Toronto feel safer about shopping at the Eaton Center. There will be increased police presence in the neighbourhood and the police will be stopping everyone and anyone they feel the need to. There will likely be raids within the community and the students I work with are going to be the victims of this. I’d like to see what would happen if homes in affluent areas of Toronto were raided in a crackdown on insider trading… How would you feel if your child was stopped by the police and interrogated while walking home from school?
Reactive initiatives meant make non-priority neighbourhood citizens feel safer is a waste of our tax dollars. My students deserve more than the negative stereotypes that have once again been thrust upon them. Regent is a wonderful community! Please don’t fall victim to ignorance; look past the familiar rants of the media and open your eyes to systemic issues this country hides so well.
Simon Black, a researcher with the City Institute at York University, has written an excellent article which can be found by following the link below.
By Simon Black
Last year in the city of Chicago, nearly 700 young people were hit by gunfire; 66 of them died. The vast majority of victims were African-American and Latino youth living in the city’s racialized low-income neighbourhoods. A recent analysis found that 8.5 per cent of Chicago (in terms of geography) contained almost all of the city’s shootings and homicides.
The mayor of Chicago insists that his city is safe. After all, around 90 per cent of neighbourhoods are not affected by youth gang and gun violence. This year, programs designed to reduce violence are being cut along with Chicago’s education budget.
While not as extreme in its geographic concentration, youth violence in Toronto is more likely to occur in our low-income postwar suburbs and pockets of racialized poverty in the downtown core than in white, middle-class neighbourhoods or shared spaces such as Yonge St.
As the 2008 report “The Roots of Youth Violence” found, while crime rates are stable “severe violence is apparently becoming more and more concentrated among socially disadvantaged minority youth.” The report concluded that the roots of youth violence are often found in poor, socially deprived neighbourhoods: the immediate risk factors of impulsivity, low self-esteem, alienation, hopelessness and lack of voice are compounded by longer-term issues of racism, poverty, community design, barriers to education and a lack of economic opportunity. The social exclusion of racialized youth and the alienation and denial of full citizenship they experience must be addressed.
When violence migrates from Toronto’s racialized low-income neighbourhoods into the spaces of commerce and tourism central to our city’s sense of collective safety, identity and international reputation, our public discourse shifts, government officials react and respond, and we reveal a hierarchy of victimhood and trauma that contravenes principles of equality.
On Dec. 26, 2005, 15-year-old Jane Creba was tragically killed while shopping on Yonge St. Between December 2005 and last Saturday’s Eaton Centre shooting, our city has lost 20-year-old Allen Benn, 24-year-old Amin Aafi, 19-year-old Yonathan Musse, 23-year-old Ricardo Francis, 25-year-old Michael George, 19-year-old Richard Gyamfi, 23-year-old David Latchana, 25-year-old Fitawrari Lunan, 21-year-old Kimel Foster, 19-year-old Kevon Hall, 18-year-old Keegan Allen, 19-year-old Ryan Hyde, 18-year-old Delane Daley, and 16-year-old Keyon Campbell.
This is a partial list of young people, racialized men in particular, lost to violence in only one of those intervening years, 2007.
These names, along with those such as Andrew Naidoo, Sealand White, Jermaine Derby, Lorenzo Martinez and Okene Thompson, are not as well-known as that of Jane Creba. Their deaths did not invoke statements from the mayor, they were not the topic of talk radio, and they did not occupy the front page of the newspapers.
When shots were fired in the Eaton Centre last Saturday, leaving 24-year old Ahmed Hassan dead and six people injured, it was not the names of these young men that tripped off the tongue of police officers, news broadcasters and elected officials.
Nor was it the name of Chantal Dunn, a 19-year-old black student at York University, who was murdered in 2006 in the Keele and Sheppard area, another victim of gun violence. Nor mother of three Rachel Alleyne, also a young black woman, shot to death in 2007 while socializing with friends in a backyard at Jane and Driftwood .
After the 2005 Boxing Day shooting, politicians of all stripes talked tough on crime, adopting a law-and-order rhetoric thought to match the mood of an outraged public. Premier Dalton McGuinty met with Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair and told him to come up with a strategy to deal with “gang and gun” violence. Talk to front-line agencies that work in the city’s “priority neighbourhoods” and they will tell you that in the wake of the Boxing Day shooting, funds became more readily available for “at-risk youth” intervention and crime reduction programs.
Following the Eaton Centre shooting a well-known Toronto journalist wrote: “Frankly, I don’t much care if hoods want to bump each other off . . . Saves the rest of us a lot of trouble . . . Hell, I’d even jail the targeted ‘victims’ of gang hits, should they survive the attempted rub-out. Usually, they asked for it.”
Racism can be understood in part as the collective denial of the humanity of “the other.” Unlike those deemed “innocent,” poor, racialized young men impacted by youth violence are our “urban other.” Victims and perpetrators alike are spoken of as “hoods,” “gang-affiliated” or “known to police,” never as “citizens,” full members of our community. They are criminalized in life and in death. This “othering” is a form of violence in and of itself.
In our city it is the trauma and victimhood of those seldom exposed to gun violence that is prioritized. In response to last Saturday’s events, a headline on a Toronto Star column said, “It could have been any of us; it wounds all of us.” Yet the reality remains that the primary victims of gun violence in our city are poor, racialized youth. And the primary sites of this violence are those neighbourhoods these youth call home.
All our young people’s lives are precious. We have at our disposal the resources and policy know-how to address youth violence. We have countless studies that show what works in reducing violence and victimization. We know how to build safer and healthier communities.
What we are missing is the political will. The main barrier to generating that will is the hierarchy of victimhood and trauma that governs our approach to youth violence. Only when poor, racialized youth are no longer seen as urban “others” will we realize our collective responsibility to address youth violence.
Simon Black is a researcher in urban social policy at the City Institute at York University.
Recently, I have been in several conversations concerning problem solving or meeting formats or conflict resolutions and each time the first thought that came to mind was, ‘we need a restorative circle.’ People are complex and passionate. We all have unique experiences and perspectives, which can cause disagreement and misunderstandings in any group setting. Some people will feel open to voicing their thoughts and feelings while others may not feel so welcome so the conversation may not reflect everyone involved. I think there is a greater issue though, and that is our ability to actually listen to one another. In the pervious two circle series posts I discussed the importance of the circle in creating an equitable space and then the importance of asking the right questions. The talking piece though, I feel is the most important element because it binds the previous two and makes the process not just equitable or effective, but forces us to follow through on the most important part of communicating which is listening.
The talking piece is the most difficult part to sell to new participants of a restorative circle. I hear the same comments every time the talking piece is introduced, ‘why do we have to use the talking piece? We don’t need it, we can take our turn.’ The reality is that most people cannot wait their turn in a conversation. We are quick to interrupt each other. We are generating new thoughts before the other person has even finished their sentence and we want to speak what is on our mind. Whether working with adults or youth, I have to teach how to be a god listener. We have to discuss what it looks like and sounds like to be a good listener. Then I will often provide strategies on how to participate in a circle as a good listener. The idea of having to actually wait with your thoughts is excruciating to some, especially when the circle includes more then two people. Often times I suggest participants bring a note pad and pen to write down what they want to say as reference for when it is their turn to speak.
So, now we have everyone sitting in a circle. As mentioned previously I have facilitated circles as large as thirty people. Now imagine sitting in a circle of thirty people with the task of discussing something such as how to improve moral among the group. First step as the facilitator, lay out the rules of the circle such clarifying that the circle is a safe space meant to identify how people are feeling without belittling or shaming anyone. The number one thing to always remember about restorative circles is that they are not punitive! Once the group has agreed to keep the circle civil and fair, the next step is to explain the purpose of the talking stick. In all of my trainings, it has been made very clear that the talking piece must be culturally sensitive to the experiences of those involved. The talking piece cannot be something that has cultural significance and might offend those participating by its use as a talking piece.
What is the purpose of talking piece? It’s very simple; if the talking stick is not in your hands then it is not your turn to talk. Again, I’d like to point out that you are participating in a circle of thirty people. Does the idea of waiting for thirty other people to speak before you can voice your opinions seem impossible? The process may seem painful, but there is something important to remember and that is, the process is about the group not just one person. The talking piece ensures everyone is heard and given the time they need to express themselves. If it takes a few minutes for someone to gather their thoughts, then we wait. We wait and respect that the person with the talking piece deserves to be heard just like everyone else (including you). This dynamic forces us to listen to one another and to sit on our thoughts instead of just blurting out the first thing that comes to mind. It gives us time to reflect on our own thoughts and hear the thoughts of others. Incase anyone should forget the rules and speak out of turn, the facilitator can remind the person that since they do not have the talking piece in their hand that it is not their turn to speak. Simple. Except, people are not simple, people are complex and passionate. To be able to participate fully in a restorative circle means developing a skill set that include being a good listener, being patient and functioning as a collaborative group member rather than an individual with self-interests. Can you imagine the kind of world we would be living in if everyone had these skills and made the conscious choice to use them? This is the magic of the restorative circle, it teaches people to respect the complexities and passions of all those participating by giving everyone the responsibility of listening and responding respectfully in turn on an equal playing field.
How have you seen people change during and after a restorative circle?
Click the photos below to learn more about circles…
Example of a Talking Piece
Grupo Nahual convenes community circles to address issues using a Mayan practice giving the right to speak in turn to circle participants by passing a stick. The circles include gang involved youth. Copyright © Donna DeCesare, 2009.
Debbie Little, restorative practices coordinator, South Lyon, Michigan, Community Schools, conducts a circle at Centennial Middle School.
I am a passionate advocate for social equity. As an educator, I am constantly finding myself discussing social inequity with peers and students in a wide variety of circumstances. One of my greatest frustrations as a teacher is the topic of our catholic school system.
I strongly disagree with the public funding of a school board that does not support or accept those who do not follow the catholic faith. I am tired of the ignorant arguments that Canada is a Christian nation and that the church championed social justice in Canada. This is 2012, and the accepted processes of colonialism of Canada’s past would never be allowed in the twenty-first century. There is a reason we recognize our aboriginal community as ‘First Nations’. They were not catholic and frankly, neither were all of the immigrants who came to Canada. Even within our current catholic system we are ignoring the beliefs of other Christian based faiths. I also strongly disagree with the idea that the catholic churches in Canada are dedicated to social justice for one simple reason; if you cannot provide a pastoral letter you are not welcome to teach with the catholic school boards. My other concern is the lack of support for LGBTQ youth in our catholic schools. Recently, Halton showed their true colours by choosing to deny support to Gay/Straight Alliance clubs. In one article I read that a HCDSB representative stated, “We don’t have Nazi groups either,”… are you kidding me? It would seem to me that social justice (as defined below) really only applies to those who uphold the catholic faith.
Social justice: A concept based upon the belief that each individual and group within a
given society has a right to civil liberties, equal opportunity, fairness, and participation in
the educational, economic, institutional, social and moral freedoms and responsibilities
valued by the community.
How can the catholic school boards (a publicly funded institution) be allowed to openly deny employment to anyone who is not “committed to the teachings of the catholic church…”? Can you imagine applying to any other job opening and being asked to provide a pastoral letter? Of the 55 English-speaking school boards in Ontario, 24 of them are catholic. How many resources are being denied to the students in the larger urban areas like Toronto and Peel, where a large percentage of the student populations are no catholic. I live and pay taxes in Peel and I don’t want my hard earn money funding a school board that will deny me employment because I am not “committed to the teachings of the catholic church”.
This morning while stumbling, I came across an article in the National Post titled, “Woman files suit over Ontario school funding.” I could not agree with her argument more. She points out the catholic school boards are receiving far more than their constitutional rights originally allowed and that the schools should only receive funding according to the rights originally afforded. History is an interesting thing. just because things are the way they are doesn’t mean its right and doesn’t mean it should be continued. Ontario is the only province to fully fund the catholic school boards, even in Quebec catholic school boards don’t get full funding! Historically, the roman catholic school boards were built to appease French Canadians while the remaining school boards were protestant as dictated by English-speaking Canadians. Eventually the protestant schools became secular but the catholic boards in Ontario have remained the same, exclusive. Why? Learn more about in this CBC article… Faith-based schools by Jennifer Wilson
What are your thoughts?
Andrew Duffy, Postmedia News · Jan. 14, 2012 | Last Updated: Jan. 14, 2012 6:27 AM ET
OTTAWA – A Toronto woman has filed suit against the Ontario government in a bid to turn back the clock on funding for Catholic schools to 1867 when the right to a separate system was enshrined in law.
Reva Landau, a retired business systems analyst, concedes in her application that the Constitution protects Catholic school funding in Ontario.
But Ms. Landau argues that giving Catholic schools more money than is strictly required by law offends the Charter’s equality provisions.
“In an ideal world, I’d like to see one public school system,” said Ms. Landau, who holds a law degree from the University of Toronto.
“But we do have the constitution. So I’m saying OK, if you insist we have to have Catholic schools, they should not get one penny more than they were entitled to in 1867.”
Canadian courts, she argued, have consistently said that legal decisions that limit Charter rights must be interpreted narrowly.
The Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that Sect. 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which guarantees Catholic school funding in Ontario, is immune from Charter challenges. (The Charter specifically exempts from review all rights guaranteed in the constitution.)
But Ms. Landau contends that the obvious inequality that results must, by law, be narrowly defined.
To that end, she contends that Catholic school funding should be based today on the 1867 model, one that strictly limited government support.
In her application, filed in the Superior Court of Justice, Ms. Landau asks for an order that eliminates all government aid for Catholic schools from Grades 9 to 12.
She also seeks an order that limits the funding of Grades 1 to 8 to “only that aid available in 1867, that is, only property taxes from Catholics who declare themselves to be separate school supporters and who live within three miles of a separate school, and property taxes from wholly Catholicowned businesses.”
She argues the current funding system unjustly forces her, through the tax system, to support Catholic schools.
“It means I’m being forced to fund a system that has sectarian views of which I do not approve,” she said.
“I’m therefore being discriminated against because a Catholic is not being forced to fund a system of which they do not approve.”
Ms. Landau’s legal gambit, which could renew the emotional separate school debate, faces an uphill battle.
The Supreme Court has twice ruled on issues related to Catholic school funding in Ontario. It upheld premier Bill Davis’ decision to extend full funding in 1984 as a valid exercise of the province’s constitutional power. And it later dismissed an argument, made on behalf of parents from other faith-based schools, that the system discriminates against them.
In its rulings, the high court has noted that the Catholic school funding guarantee was an important compromise on the road to Confederation.
Ms. Landau, however, contends that the court should reconsider its reasoning in light of the 1997 constitutional amendment that allowed Quebec to reorganize its schools along linguistic rather than religious lines.
“The other party to the historic compromise, Quebec, has already opted out,” she said. “That argument is now much weaker and it has to be reconsidered.”
Ms. Landau decided to file her lawsuit after researching the history of the province’s education system.
“It’s one of those things,” Ms. Landau said, “that the more you think about it, the more it just seems so blatantly unfair.”
The last time the Catholic school funding issue made headlines in Ontario was in 2007 when Progressive Conservative leader John Tory made the politically disastrous promise to extend full funding to all faith-based schools.
As evident from my previous post, I do not use the practices and structures of restorative justice in a traditional sense. I use the circle as a structure to my class or in a professional setting as a means of management, accountability and community building.
The restorative questions provide similar opportunities for teachers to manage student accountability and to build respect in the classroom. Youth are uninterested in taking responsibility for their actions because they do not want to be punished. As a teacher, I am uninterested in being an authoritarian over my students. I don’t enjoy the parent/child relationship and prefer to empower my students to make positive and responsible choices as an equal to myself and everyone else in the class. When students understand there is no punishment they are far more open to taking responsibility for their actions and make things right again!
For the skeptics out there, please keep in mind that there are some very important factors involved in facilitating these questions in any number of situations and environments.
1) Is the person who caused harm willing to participate? How willing are they to answer the questions?
2) Those involved must focus on the facts and be true to their own reality and experience of the incident. It is the responsibility of the facilitator to guide and reassure those participating that honest is not going to result in a punishment, but that we are all working together to restore things back to the way they were.
As a teacher, I find these questions not only help me resolve issues in the classroom but to also understand things about my students that help me to be proactive in the future concerning behaviour issues. When people first begin practicing restorative questioning, it can be difficult to imagine what the conversation is going to sound like. A few years ago, I came across an article posted by Julia Steiny that provides and excellent example how restorative questioning can be used in school and what the specific conversation would sound like…
A darling, cocky boy gets kicked out of class and into the suspension room. He has that goofy look of a kid who knows he’s been a jerk, but figures he’ll stonewall the adults by pleading innocence. We’ll call him Manny. He looks to be a young 14.
But instead of just parking him with other “bad” kids for a while, this school is starting to experiment with “restorative practices,” an alternative to traditional punishments like suspension. Research says suspension doesn’t work anyway, because it doesn’t teach social skills. I’m working with the school on “restoring” kids back to the community fold, by asking standard questions that help them think through their behavior. The questions are gold in my opinion. This story is a real-life image of how they can work.
The busy staff member bringing Manny in mentions only that he was yelling out the window. In itself, the offense sounds like something a teacher could handle on the spot, but we don’t know what else might have happened or how chronic this behavior has been.
The first Restorative Question is always: What happened?
Restorative practitioners focus on “what” and not “why.” “Why” invites a lot of useless reasoning and getting into other people’s heads and motives. Observable facts are important and push the kid toward an objective perspective.
Manny insists, “Nothing happened! I saw a friend of mine out the window, so I got up and said hey. Really, Miss! That’s all!” He starts to explain that the teacher was wrong, which kids do. So I cut him off, reminding him that we’re not here to talk about the teacher’s behavior, but his. He shrugs and nods. We move on.
I ask him to take me back a step and describe the scene leading up to yelling out the window.
Nothing was happening. He was in the back of the class chilling with his friends, like always, doing nothing.
Hmmm. I ask about schoolwork. What was he supposed to be doing?
“Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah,” he quickly remembers, “I was doing my schoolwork.”
I love kids. If they’re not yet hardened with antisocial defenses, they’ll just open their mouths and tell you what you need to know.
Okay, I say, you were in class with one eye on your work and another on your friends.
He smiles sheepishly, “Uh, yeah, something like that.”
And then you got up out of your seat and went to the window. “Yeah.” And what did you yell at your friend?
He rolls his eyes like it’s a stupid question and answers something to the effect, “Yo! Alex, up here! Whuzzup?”
I repeat back to him what is now a fairly clear scenario — with no editorial on my part, just the facts. He nods as I talk; I’m getting it. He thinks he’s off the hook. But when I get to him yelling out the window, I actually do yell, which makes him laugh. Still, he confirms my version of the story.
Next Restorative Question: Who else was affected?
“Absolutely no one!” Big surprise. They all say that, too.
Okay, Manny, pretend you’re not yourself, but another kid in the room, one of the ones in the front, doing their work. You’re yelling to Alex, and what happens to that kid?
Manny quickly uploads the image in his mind, and his face drops. He’s stepped out of his narcissism, and while looking back at his behavior he sees for himself what he’s done.
“We-ell. Just for one tiny second, I might glance up to see what was happening. But it would be only …” I cut short his efforts to minimize and ask how many kids were in the class. Probably, like, 20.
Okay, Manny, now pretend you’re the teacher.
Without hesitation he barks, “Okay, okay, I get it! I disrupted class!”
I thank him. Good! That’s honest.
The last Restorative Question I ask is: What would make this right?
This usually has a complex set of answers. The kid doesn’t want to be sent down here again, so we start with how he can avoid this particular hot water in the future. He thinks and umms, but concludes that he could sit in the front of the class, away from the window and away from his friends.
I ask if he really thinks he can commit to that. “Yeah, definitely.” I praise him for a very doable plan.
But, I point out, academic success is far easier when you have good relationships with teachers. Would an apology help? Whoa, no, that he can’t do. We talk a bit, but his heels are in the ground. I let go and count the incident as a big partial win. He’s gratifyingly pensive as I let him switch to doing homework.
Now, anyone, any mom, teacher, neighbor, or older kid could ask those Restorative Questions. Granted, it’s a bit of a skill not to react to the answers except with polite, clarifying questions, to keep the information flowing. But the point is to let the kid see himself in his own answers. Help him think.
Otherwise we’re just letting kids repeat their mistakes, over and over again.
By Julia Steiny
In my experiences, students do not learn to take responsibility for their actions from punitive consequences. They become defensive and put themselves in a victim role and often only learn not to get caught the next time. The restorative questions respect both the situation and experience of the person who causes harm and the person has experienced harm. It allows both parties to reflect on the events of the incident and express their part in it. The questions allow the person who caused harm to empathize with those who were harmed and to understand the impact of their actions. Collaboratively, all parties involved work together to make things right and allow everyone to move forward.