Restorative Practices Seek to Build Community and Engage Students

Restorative Practices Seek to Build Community and Engage Students

Misbah Farooqi, 2015-2017 Editor-in-Chief

When one of Ms. Chavarria’s students never came back to class after being arrested in school, she knew that the current disciplinary methods had to change.

After researching other disciplinary methods, Ms. Chavarria discovered restorative justice. Restorative justice focuses on mending the harmed relationship between the offender and the victim, rather than solely seeking to punish the offender.

One of the most common ways to practice restorative justice is through the restorative circles. The circles are inclusive safe spaces where participants are encouraged to share their thoughts on a topic, with the assurance that all voices will be heard and valued.

These circles seek to restore relationships, build community, and establish trust among the participants. Ms. Chavarria, along with other teachers and administrators at Wilde Lake, have established them in their classrooms and through student groups.

Ms. Chavarria started the circles in her classes last year, and has sought to hold them twice a week and whenever else necessary depending on how the students are feeling about current events.

“The circles hone in on how students are feeling. I feel like it is hard for high school students to identify their feelings and voice them. The circles help them find their own voice and become comfortable enough to share their feelings,” said Ms. Chavarria.

Restorative practices have gone beyond Ms. Chavarria’s classroom, and are now being implemented in a variety of settings at Wilde Lake. The administration and other staff members have created a number of groups within the student body to allow students to have their voices heard and their ideas shared.

“The goal with the circles is to establish better relationships with the kids and staff members. When you have better relationships, this leads to more engagement and better grades,” said administrator Ms. Jensen.

Administration seeks to expand the practices into next year, with more trained staff incorporating restorative circles in their classrooms in hopes of engaging more students in their education.