By Sarah Ceponis, Director, BCP 21st Century Community Learning Center at Govans Elementary
Every day at 4:15pm, students at Govans Elementary hear an announcement over the loud speaker, "Time to clean up whatever you're working on. The restorative circle topic to start thinking about today is....", followed by a hint about the day's discussion question.
Students and staff of the Baltimore Curriculum Project's 21st Century Community Learning Center at Govans Elementary -- a program made possible by the Maryland State Department of Education -- have come to expect and enjoy their ten minutes to recharge and check in with one another between after-school academics and enrichment time.
In November, all after-school staff members received training in the fundamentals of Restorative Practices, a positive approach to conflict resolution that proactively builds relationships and a sense of community to prevent conflict and wrongdoing. Training was provided by Chella Drew, a Restorative Practices consultant and former Director of Restorative Practices at Hampstead Hill Academy.
Restorative Circles can be used proactively to develop relationships and build community or reactively to respond to wrongdoing, conflicts and problems. With everyone now used to the daily restorative circle, it is a habit that students look forward to. Circles provide a a time to think about and share whatever comes to mind around the daily question or "circle starter". They are a time to learn from and listen to one another.
Questions of the day can range from why animals hibernate to standing up to a bully; from what type of person would make a good mayor to what you might do if you won the lottery, from how to be a good teammate to traveling the world.
Based on the day of the week, topics rotate among being community-themed, learning-themed, conflict resolution-themed, or simply "Fun Thursday"-themed.
All 90 students, from K through 5, tune in and talk about the same topic in their classrooms, and sometimes, conversations carry over to enrichment, the hallways, or dinner.
Using restorative circles daily, in a fun and structured way, allows after school students to get used to the goal of circles: everyone having their voice heard.
Regularly practicing their circle etiquette and skills with the whole class means that when circles are needed for other reasons-- mediation, misbehavior, or bullying-- students are prepared and ready to, again, make their voice heard, and listen to the voices of their classmates.
BCP and IIRP
BCP brought Restorative Practices to its schools in 2006 through the generous support of OSI-Baltimore and the Goldsmith Family Foundation. All administrators and staff members were trained by the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP), which continues to be a strong BCP partner.
For more information about IIRP visit: http://www.iirp.edu/