Successful behavior intervention must consider the whole community, not just the person misbehaving, and behavior intervention strategies should be informed by the root causes of the misbehavior. It is not just about punishment, it is about successfully resolving conflicts, so they do not happen again.
Or at least that is what proponents of restorative justice say.
“When students act out, the whole community is affected,” said Tracy Sangare, an ELT instructor and member of the North Colonie Teachers Association. In her online seminar, “A Beginner’s Guide to Implementing Restorative Practices,” she teaches about intentionally building community in the classroom. Sangare provides a roadmap for how to implement these practices to resolve conflicts between students or between students and educators. Here, she shares some of the principles of restorative justice:
The results of this are two-fold: all students benefit from being part of a community, and secondly, the community that has been built will form a foundation for healing work when harm has been done. Set classroom norms at the outset, encourage affective statements, and hold community-building circles so students can get to know one another. “Building community in our schools should be a top priority among districts; community building has no downside,” Sangare said.
When students act up, they are harming the members of their classroom community, and it is important to help them make that connection, said Sangare. Try to discuss factors that contributed to this behavior and give voice to the people impacted by it to foster empathy. This approach can transform the incident into an opportunity that empowers students to learn from their mistakes and overcome misunderstandings.
Bringing the classroom together to find a solution to the problem gives students a sense of agency, and it also reinforces the idea that the students are interconnected. An ideal solution should ask both the harmer and the harmed to take responsibility for their part in the incident, if they have any, and it should provide an opportunity for the wrongdoer to be welcomed back into the classroom community.
ELT coursework is offered year-round and can be used for undergraduate, graduate and in-service credit as well as to fulfill Continuing Teacher and Leader Education requirements. For more information, go to elt.nysut.org.