…the video showcases a highly non-traditional model of school discipline–specifically the restorative approach that a growing number of schools have chosen to adopt as a way to address the fact that youth of color tend to experience disproportionate rates of detention and suspension when compared to their white peers…. At its core lies the imperative for decisions about accountability to be undertaken with those who perpetrate harm, rather than done to them; as such, its core practices include dialogue circles, victim-offender mediation, individualized rehabilitation plans, and proactive prevention strategies which emphasize belongingness.
….From my perspective as an instructional expert, however, what strikes me most about the footage is actually what it excludes: namely, the voices of the vice principal and principal. For seven full minutes, the two administrators hardly say a word. It is the boys who direct the conversation and move it forward; the routines of restorative conferencing, with which they are deeply familiar, enable them to engage in a conversation that feels structured but not scripted. There is not a single moment where they turn to the adults present in the room to seek input or to ask what to do next–and as a result, the sense of collective pride that they express toward the end of the conference is all their own.
The reason I found these aspects of the video to be so striking is that they mirror much of what I and my colleague Jal Mehta have observed in classrooms where powerful learning is happening. Students are actively engaged in constructing their own meanings. Routines and frameworks provide structure for open-ended inquiry. Dialogue is a key part of the process; there is often a sense that students are participating together in a collective “community of practice.” Teachers serve less as controllers-in-chief than as facilitators and expert listeners. When things go well, students develop a deep sense of pride and ownership over their work.
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