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What is Classroom Restorative Discipline?

A teacher helps resolve a playground conflict between two of her studentsClassroom restorative discipline involves dealing with challenging behavior in a way that goes beyond simply punishing the offender. Instead, restorative discipline puts the focus on repairing the damage done to the victim and can include restorative actions by the offender.

The idea represents a shift from punishment-oriented classrooms. Classroom restorative discipline is part of a set of restorative strategies that go beyond dealing with individual incidents. Restorative strategies seek to create a culture of respect in the classroom and eliminate racial disparities in school discipline.

It’s something that teachers can learn with professional development courses that focus on how to create restorative strategies in the classroom.

Defining Restorative Discipline

Because it’s a relatively new approach to handling conflict and fostering cooperation, classroom restorative discipline is described in different ways. However, in each case, the goal is to create a classroom where respect, cooperation and responsibility are the rules, not the exception.

There are many different techniques involved. For example, one common technique is the use of classroom circles (or peace circles) that allow students to talk through issues and “make things right” between each other. The result is classrooms that are calm and collaborative.

Other examples of restorative strategies include peer-led mediation between the offender and victim and dialogues between two or more students.

In its own policies for restorative discipline, Fresno Pacific University officials write about the need to balance the policy between “centered” and “bounded.”

Centered focuses on providing an example for students to emulate for proper behavior. Bounded refers to establishing rules and boundaries that help students “become aware of when she or he may not be in right relationship with standards established by and for the community.”

Why Use Classroom Restorative Discipline?

According to the School-Wide Restorative Practices Guide issued for schools in Denver, classroom restorative discipline and restorative strategies are needed because “traditional, punitive discipline policies and practices are ineffective, do not support students, and have a disproportionate impact on students of color.”

Restorative practices instead focus on promoting healthy relationships. It works best when teachers are trained with the “social-emotional and conflict-resolution skills needed to reduce conflict,” according to the guide.

Essentially, it’s a new way to approach discipline that is fairer and less punitive. It also can foster healing between two parties, rather than the lingering resentment often created with a punitive system.

Learning About Restorative Discipline

As part of its professional development courses for teachers, Fresno Pacific University offers many classes on restorative strategies. For example, the Strategic Planning for Restorative Discipline class gives teachers the skills they need to establish a classroom restorative discipline program. Fresno Pacific University suggests that teachers first complete classroom restorative discipline training before taking this class.

Learning how to both develop and implement classroom restorative discipline are skills that teachers need as more school districts take a progressive approach to student discipline.