Leadership magazine Sept/Oct 2018 V48 No. 1 - Page 26

Why restorative practices and community matter more than ever in the era of school shootings Approaches exist that can combat school violence and make campuses safer. Restorative practices serve as the launch point. 26 Leadership This morning, like every morning when I park in the lot of the middle school where I am an assistant principal, questions flood my head in anticipation of the com- ing day. Which students will need academic support and interventions today? How can I best coach that teacher with her long-term lesson planning to increase her students’ learning? On which students should I per- form an in-class observation to offer extra feedback? Never in all my years as an educa- tor did I consider that a new question should now come to mind: How do we as a school keep our students safe from gun violence? As disheartening as that question is, I find it equally alarming that for many the knee- jerk reaction is to create a system where they judge their students and the potential level of threat they warrant. I instead would like to seek alternatives to creating communities laced with fear. It is natural for a student, parent, or teacher to feel fearful in the wake of senseless school shootings, but I person- ally cannot let that fear govern my bedrock belief that all students come to school to seek personal betterment and belonging. A sociological article from The Conversa- tion that I read examining the recent wave of school shootings asked the important ques- tion of why these shootings are happening. It also asked the reader to explore what teach- ers’ and schools’ responses to children are. The article opined that “how teachers under- stand the children and youth they teach has important educational consequences. Are students budding citizens or future workers? Are they plants to nourish or clay to mold?” (Warnick, Johnson, Rocha, 2018) The ar- ticle mentioned that some schools are now undergoing staff trainings on “threat assess- ment,” or telling teachers what troubling indicators to look for in their students that By Miriam Singer