- Restorative justice practices help build a sense of school community through opportunities for shared communication, each of which involves a teacher-led disucussion and the rule that a student must hold a predetermined token before speaking.
- Community circles, which can be used as young as kindergarten, allow students to bond while discussing a topic set by the teacher and can be used at any time to build a sense of community.
- Teachers can use these circles proactively to call “family meetings” to address issues impacting classroom performance or comfort, and to call “restorative circles" to address specific acts of misbehavior that cause someone in the classroom to feel bullied, threatened or otherwise uncomfortable.
The root of this idea is the notion that almost any societal problem can be solved by better communication. Teachers who use this idea proactively and not just during times of behavioral crisis can help create a safe space for students and often reduce bullying. The more students talk to one another, the more they find commonalities and the more they see one another as people, rather than objects or victims.
These dialogue circles can become an important tool in classroom management. The practice can also help students improve their social-emotional learning by learning to express their feelings and developing a sense of empathy toward others. It also helps students who are facing trauma in their lives, an event that is all too common in some schools.
In the realm of discipline, such restorative justice practices can lower the number of suspensions and help keep students in the classroom. This, in turn, can help reduce the school-to-prison pipeline. A step by step guide to using classroom circles as part of restorative justice can be found here.