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Tara Jackson, Stephanie Flores-Koulish, Ph.D.

Building Relationships using Restorative Practice Approaches

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In today’s society of hyperaccountability, high stakes testing is used as a tool to measure not only a student’s academic achievement, but teachers’ and administrators’ performance as well. In education, the focus is often on test scores, grades, standards, policies, discipline, and paperwork. What sometimes gets lost in all of the deadlines, mandates, and restrictions is the educator’s ability to make connections with their students. Schools in different communities respond differently based on personnel, resources and population. I am an urban teacher who is passionate about providing a safe and nurturing environment while improving the quality of education and life for my students in the inner city; therefore, I will be looking through an urban lens at using restorative practices as a proactive approach to build relationships. Students need people who care about them, and building relationships is a great way to start helping them to succeed in life. The restorative approach is not a prescribed program; instead, it is a philosophy that sees relationships as the catalyst to learning, growing, and maintaining a healthy school environment for members of a school community. building positive relationships is the most impactful thing that an urban teacher can do. Many students have outside factors that have a severe impact on a student’s academic motivation and emotional engagement which affects their in-school behaviors. Many inner-city students live in marginalized communities where they are challenged economically and lack structure or support. Schools can be that place that offers them an escape from the reality that they live.

Building communities involves individuals demonstrating empathy, a key emotion in the restorative process, it plays a significant role in enabling individuals to connect with others. Empathy is a feeling or emotion that connects people; it is the power to understand perspectives other than your own. Emotions are cognitive processes that guide responses based on situations. Empathy is a foundational skill, that guides how we are able to interact with one another. Teachers and staff members need empathy because it contributes to the accurate understanding of their student’s perceptions, concerns, fears, strengths and abilities. I will be presenting a professional development plan for building relationships by using Restorative Practice approaches. This professional development is critical because it addresses the need for students to feel valued and schools to cultivate a positive climate that is a safe learning space. Although this idea is not new, there is a recent shift away from the punitive approach to using restorative practices in terms of dealing with students in ways to build relationships and increase social and emotional skills in students and staff. The focus is on using proactive approaches to build communities, develop relationships, increase a sense of belonging, and reactive approaches to use effective strategies to deal with disruptive unwanted behaviors. I used a variety of resources that includes the Baltimore City Public School System’s Blueprint for success, Open Society Institute, Johns Hopkins Institute, CASEL and other sources to research this topic.


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