Restorative Practices in the Classroom

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Newburgh Program Manager and Garden Educator, Serena is feeling positive about her Restorative Justice apprenticeship with the Mediation Center of Dutchess County. Serena was one of eight Hudson Valley youth-educators selected to participate in this program funded by a grant from Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley.

Hudson Valley Seed’s educators already use restorative practices in the classroom in a lot of ways. Some of the rituals that we currently implement include:

  • slowing down;

  • sitting in circles with students;

  • doing a unique movement when calling present, and then receiving nonverbal signals from other circle participants as a show of appreciation;

  • acknowledging everyone’s name. For example, we say each other’s garden names when beginning garden time in class.

The circle process is pretty radical because it shifts group work from power structure to a trusting environment. Circles offer effective room for communication because they provide clarity and opportunity to revisit values. As a result, studies are finding a direct link to decreases in student suspension and deescalation when there is conflict.

Conflict is ongoing in life because of the natural human process. It gives young people agency to work through the emotions they are having. It is part of the basic communication cycle. It is about trust and accountability. Restorative practice is a way to prevent harm while also allowing for conflict.

Serena looks forward to bringing restorative practices to Hudson Valley Seed in ways that will help us continue to integrate it throughout the whole organization. Restorative practices encourage us to address conflict in a way so that people can be heard and can come to collaborative solutions. This is one of the ways we honor legacy, because it is something that has been in practice for a long time in many different cultures.