Creating rules or creating values, the difference in a restorative classroom.

Restorative Justice Classroom CircleIn the photo – Catherine and students in a morning circle.  Responsive Classroom has been taken one step further with implementing restorative justice in the classroom.

A recent training: 

Restorative Justice in Schools:  Effective Use of Circles.  I use a combination of Circle itself, Powerpoint and small group discussion to teach the various concepts and restorative justice circle process.

In small group Circles the training participants were speaking to the concepts they already use and the ones they would like to start using.  I over heard a participant talking about how the creation of classroom ‘rules’ happens all the time, when in fact we should be creating “values” for our classrooms.  YES! YES! YES!

Rules can be what student do when the teacher is watching.  Values are ways of behaving, knowing what we should be doing, versus behaving in a way we want to, or even have to.  You’ve got to put the motivation for behavior on the INSIDE.  You need a shared concept of community in a classroom.  INSIDE that little community is shared concepts of treating each other.  INSIDE those little people in the class, you instill the values for behavior.

We talk very little with children about values.  Circles are where that talking can take place.  In Circles you can discuss and demonstrate trust, respect, honesty and caringRestorative Justice Circle.  Even when you are talking about other things you can be sharing about these values.  Circles bring our character.  What you share about shows character.  Deep down inside all of us, is our core character, and young people need help.  They need help carving out character, and we can do that by teaching and talking about values.

In the training demonstration Circle, I used the getting acquainted question “what did you have for breakfast, if you could have had anything, what would you have had”.  We learned someone made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for her child and had one.  We learned someone else had a spouse who went to a nearby farm that morning for fresh eggs.  We learned who had coffee, who would have rather had waffles.  It was a way of seeing interactions with others by learning who had what for breakfast.  As we ended the demonstration circle, the training participants offered reflections.  It was noted that you can learn a great deal from others, just by listening.  Circles give that listening space and process.

Values stay with us longer than rules.  Values transfer situation or setting.  We need rules to offer structure and I think using values as rules is a way to create a restorative classroom.  Rules are hard to place in relationships to each other, values are the means to which we treat each other.  Next time you are considering the rules, think about the values instead.