Coaching Call . . . student not serious, formal measures instead of Restorative

Zoom Coaching Call

In 2015, Joe came to a training I held in River Falls Wisconsin, and then he had me to Michigan for two trainings.  Catherine has been going to Michigan since 2016 to continue to train there.  We teamed up at a recent problem solving Circle training Catherine was providing.  I offered a Zoom, and took questions from the group.  I forgot to record the session.  Here is some of the content covered in the Zoom.

Q: How do you get Seniors, to be more serious about Circle, they call it “AA time” and joke around.

I’m wondering if we could reframe it, instead of joking around, have they “claimed” it.  We know that adolescents rename, invent names and each generation has its slang.  How is it impacting you to hear that?

Take it to Circle, ask the students, what does it mean when you say this is “AA time”, how does that impact everyone, this would give the teacher or whoever is uncomfortable some voice to it.  Maybe someone in the building attends AA, and gets a great deal of support.  Maybe only a few students are starting this and others don’t really care for it.

You can also ask the Circle, “how could the CIrcle be more like AA”, and another round, pass of the talking piece”how could it be less like AA”.  Remember to keep Circles authentic, equitable and connected.  Have real and genuine conversations, allow for equal voice, equal opportunity, create those strong connections so you have a strong container, a strong Circle to problem solve in.

With problem solving, you want that strong community of connection, from already doing Circles, then you want to have the Circle, the Community solve the problem.  It it is only the teacher working on the problem, you have gone back to the Triangle shape of leading (one person at the top).  Move back to the Circle, the options will be varied, the investment will be shared and the responsibility will be to many not just one.

After having a Restorative Chat with a student, is it a “conflict of interest” to share the reflection sheet with the teacher, especially if the student discloses something to you about the teacher. There is a shift room where students go and in 15 minutes or less, they work on the issue and go back to class.  Staff help with one option, the restorative process sheet.

For me, I don’t understand this language “conflict of interest”, that sounds like competing priorities or something.  It would be an oxymoron to Restorative Justice, we are all interested in Relationships, in Community.  I wonder if there is a misunderstanding of Restorative Justice confidentiality.  Like people think, “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” wait, not that’s not a good example!

In Restorative, we want to talk about our plans to make things right, we leave Circle and we don’t say who said what story, we don’t share someone elses sharing.   We can talk about how we were impacted, what our experience was.  We talk about the PLAN we came up with to make it right.  How will the community know we worked it out if we don’t share the plan we came up with?

The person doing the Restorative Agreement should also be working with the youth to encourage them to talk to the teacher, remember Authentic?  Can the teacher as they send the youth to the shift room, quickly make sure they send what they need to make it right? An apology, and assignment.  Wait, I don’t want to create checklists, this is about a mindset.  If the one that was harmed isn’t part of making it right, it is not FULLY restorative.  I get in schools that can be hard, that’s why I don’t care for those rooms, it is still exclusion.  Even if it’s 15 minutes or less.  No offense, I’ve heard you say “15 minutes or less” 3 or 4 times.  That means your metric, your measurement is on the time.  In Restorative, we measure how much harm was repaired.

My question, is why can’t the teacher give a concern 90 seconds, 30 seconds of empathy and do her own restorative chat later?  Catherine is going to teach you about that later, and she is the MASTER at the chat. (check out her Facebook and website)  If it only takes 15 minutes to resolve the concern, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal to directly and quickly do Restorative.

We work to restore balance right, so we right the harm, restore balance,  if we don’t get balance back, and stay off kilter, we will have the same harm happening.  (lots of hand gestures, showing finger tips matched up or not).  If you bring the teacher in who was harmed, you not only restore balance, you weave that relationship together, tighter.

We are wanting to be restorative, but the admin team is telling us they get pressure to respond in the formal way, suspension and expulsion if that is the policy.

Very common.  You do Restorative alongside, until you can do it instead of.  If there was a harm that holds the policy of suspension, then you can do Restorative around that harm.  You can do Restorative to welcome the student back, set them up for success as they re-enter.  Remember, we can do Circles at all PBIS tiers.  The higher you go on the Tier the more experience and training you should have.  I did this a lot, alongside issues in schools.  Here is the deal, you want to train the principal involved to participate in a Circle and speak from the heart.

You will be amazed at what happens then.  In one situation, the assistant principal explained:

When something like this happens I have to call one set of parents and say “I didn’t protect your child at school, they got hurt” and then I have to call another set of parents and say “I didn’t watch your child close enough today, they hurt someone else”.  I deal with all those responses in one day, and I was supposed to get a report ready for the school board.

Make sure anyone coming to Circle understands speaking from the heart and sharing how they were impacted.  Alongside before instead of, and those administrators that get involved will turn into Restorative advocates for you!

We had more discussion about fidelity measures, I’ll prepare another blog.

I felt really fantastic after the call!  It reminded me of the late 90’s when many of us in MN were learning Restorative together.  We attended each others trainings, we sat in Circle to learn Circle.  This kind of collaboration felt great, that we totally modeled relationships but bringing more voices to the training experience.

More videos of Coaching Calls on You Tube.

Trainings in June – Catherine and I together in Hudson Wisconsin and an advanced practice at the Miner Ranch.