I was excited to co-present with Meg Zuttermeister at the International Healing-Centered Education Online Conference.https://www.drangelacosta.com/conference-2023 You can watch our presentation here:

Restorative Practices are a framework for building community and for responding to challenging behavior through authentic dialogue, coming to understanding, and making things right.

The Center for Restorative Process

We begin by being restorative. By employing the four restorative verbs: notice, wonder, acknowledge, and appreciate. Before we introduce any programming or restorative content to students (co-learners), we begin with the adults in the building. Each school has its own needs, even within a single district so it is important to me to get to know the character and culture of a school and the people who create that learning community.

I meet with adult stakeholders (administrators, teachers, staff) typically for a full-day (at minimum) or ideally, for two full days for an immersive learning experience that invites us to notice in our bodies how it feels to be restorative. To follow our curiosity about what engages us, where we feel resistance, and to acknowledge our strengths, our existing ways of being restorative, our growing edges, and the limits of what we know and understand. Then we can appreciate how being restorative begins by building trusting relationships throughout the school community.

At this point, we may begin introducing or more fully embedding restorative practices into curriculum, programs, and school culture. Transforming a school into a restorative learning community takes time. Whole-school implementation is often scaffolded over a minimum of three years. The time we devote to building a strong foundation of trust, patience, empathy, accountability, and joy determines the quality of our efforts.

Whole Being Wellness and Restorative Practices for K-12 School

With the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in 1998, and subsequent research on toxic stress in childhood, many schools are adopting a trauma-informed, healing-centered approach as a way to recognize and appropriately respond to student behavior and academic performance that builds individual and collective resiliency, accountability and empathy.

Mindfulness training and Circles have emerged as core classroom practices in elementary schools. At Glenview Elementary School (Oakland, CA), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTr4v0eYigM, both practices are integrated into every classroom. Academic performance has improved as disciplinary issues have decreased. See also https://www.mindfulschools.org/resources/explore-mindful-resources/

Components of a restorative practices program for elementary school include:

1) introducing children and adults to trauma-informed, healing-centered techniques and circles as part of the daily classroom routine to cultivate empathy, emotional self-regulation, and community; these daily circles build trust and fluency in social-emotional learning and self-regulation.

2) developing trauma-informed, healing-centered, relationship-based restorative practices, i.e. understanding disruptive behavior by first being curious about identifying underlying feelings and needs, and then responding with restorative responses (conversations and/or circles) based on compassion and accountability that address the needs and obligations of all stakeholders.

3) training upper-grade students and designated staff as relationship-keepers and circle-keepers for reconciliation circles.

4) Involving all stakeholders in a resolution process when harm or a breach of right relationship occurs, affording participants the chance to see a situation from multiple perspectives, thus enhancing empathy, accountability, and belonging.

I have had the pleasure of working with four elementary schools in Charlottesville, Virginia, offering restorative immersive learning experiences during professional development days. These days are designed to provide participants with an embodied experience of being restorative—embracing the four verbs of being restorative: notice, wonder, acknowledge, appreciate—as we consider ways to incorporate a worldview into our daily lives and educational practices

Our staff had commented today that yesterday was the best opening day that they have ever had in their teaching careers – so thank you very much! 

Dina Fricke, Principal
Greenbrier Elementary School

I wanted to send a quick note of gratitude about our restorative practice/circle at Venable today. I feel like your/our words, activities, and conversations really helped us connect at *a whole new level* as a staff. I learned a lot…was reminded of a lot…and was validated in many ways. You are a true gift, and I can honestly say that everyone in our country (world, even!!) could benefit from your time, talents, and words of truth, wisdom, empathy, & kindness. It would make us all better humans!

Becky Bassett , Reading Specialist, Venable Elementary 

Playshop for the Lambton Kent District School Board

I had the privilege and delight of co-facilitating a wonderful playshop on April 12, 2024 with Mary Abma, where we combined poem- and mosaic-making to embody being restorative .