...Kosciusko Middle School, in Hamtramck, Michigan, is in the process of implementing the Whole-School Change Program, one of seven schools doing so in this independent municipality within the city of Detroit. Hamtramck has a highly diverse population that includes African-American, Arab, Bengali and Bosnian residents, as well as those whose families have lived there for generations. Nuo Ivesay, principal, said that Kosciusko’s whole staff had been trained, including lunchroom workers and custodians. “Before, they felt: Nobody pays attention to us. Now they feel part of the school community and that somebody cares. Now we feel like we’re all in this together. It’s making a difference everywhere.”

The Whole-School Change Program goes further to avoid the possible pitfalls of top-down-initiated schemes. Said Bailie, “All school staff members have some responsibility to craft and implement the program, teaching and developing their restorative practices skills for themselves and their colleagues in teams, supporting and spurring each other along.” This change process mirrors the restorative philosophy: that people respond best when those in authority do things with them, not to or for them. “By giving everyone a voice and a role in the change process, you give them a reason to buy in,” said Bailie, adding, “You can’t coerce people to grow, learn and change.”

...Ultimately, restorative practices and Whole-School Change benefits the entire school community — staff as much as students. Staff members say that restorative practices is improving staff-to-staff communication as much as staff-to-student interaction. Staff meetings are held in circles, and, as noted previously, the Whole-School Change implementation process is all about teamwork. As Warren Prep’s Deborah Martinez said, “With restorative practices, teachers have more communication and more patience with each other. They’re talking to each other more about work and depending on each other more. We can have tough conversations now. We can see what our colleagues need, and it’s much easier to give each other advice regarding teaching practices or how to handle or reach a particular child. Getting children where they need to be is much more a collective process now.”

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