Iredell-Statesville Schools School & Family Magazine December 2016 - Page 7

slavery,” they said. They asked for my help talking to their teacher, a wonderful teacher who had been an active participant in our RJ trainings, about how she was teaching a unit on slavery in U.S. history. She agreed and we set up the circle. “We love you,” the students said, “but we have to tell you what this unit is doing to us. This is our identity, and the way you’re teaching slavery is making us feel terrible.” After a long discussion, with tears on all sides, the teacher suggested a strategy: She would reconstruct the unit, putting it in the context of African history overall, and as an international struggle over power, resources, and economic systems—looking at slavery in the context of conquest and resistance all over the world rather than isolating a specific group as victims. She still teaches the unit that way. Reference: Teaching Restorative Practices with Classroom Circles: file/1383373468359/1383373471251/64520816673 23571114.pdf How Can We All Play a Role in Keeping Our Students Connected? Parent and teacher support. Students recognize when the adults in their lives genuinely care about them, and when it is more than lip service. Get to know the youth, what they care about, what their dreams are. Become involved! Families that are engaged in their child’s education have the opportunity to voice their concerns and have a say in the educational process. They can share their specific circumstances and challenges. Improved quality of treatment and services = better outcomes. At all levels of income and background, children whose families are engaged in their education tend to do better in school, attend on a regular basis, have less disciplinary issues, and subsequently stay in school and out of court. RJP provides venues for families, schools, law enforcement, and communities to unwrap difficult issues, with the best interest of the student in mind. Commitment to school. When youth see the important adults in their life investing in their schooling, through participation in extra-curricular activities, keeping track of their achievements and misfortunes, and believing in the power of a good education, they are then willing to invest their time and energies! Parent involvement increases when families perceive that teachers and administrators welcome their involvement, especially when there are cultural and language differences. Positive peer network. My Gramma used to say, “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Peer influence is not to be underestimated! Is the student hanging with kids who bully? Skip school? Blow off homework? Or are his/her friends helping to reinforce constructive behaviors? Positive school environment and culture. This is where Restorative Justice shines! Discipline policies, classroom management practices, positive reinforcement, supportive relationships with teachers and administration, all play their part in helping students feel safe and supported. Circle #2 Piedmont Mediation staff were asked to facilitate a circle for a young man coming back to his home school after being at an alternative school for several months. The school and the youth’s family wanted a way to encourage him to put the past behind him, find his footing, and enjoy his high school days. Present in the circle were his father and uncle, two teachers, his football coach, and an administrator. The first question asked of everyone in the circle, one at a time, was to tell of something they did when they were in school, that they were not proud of and had to rise above. One told of how they bullied their siblings. Another talked of their alcoholic parent and their disrespectful behaviors. Each person showed their vulnerability! They gave of themselves to help this young man know that Iredell-Statesville School & Family 5