Connections Quarterly Winter 2019 - Restorative Practices - Page 29

Restorative Practices in Elementary School By Lainie Oshlag Highgate Elementary School I n rural Vermont where I teach fourth grade, our public school is home to 270 students, 30% of whom have experienced parent reported early childhood trauma. Consequently, these students’ brains have developed differently than the brains of children who have not endured adverse experiences. When I was told that I would have two of the highest behaviors in my class, I went looking for tools I could use to help them. Everything I read about being a trauma-informed educator said that, above all else, connection helps the brain to heal. Restorative Justice in Education “is a vision of education that acknowledges that our individual and collective well-being is enhanced... through collective engagement and support” (Evans, 2016, p. 8). A school that has implemented restorative practices is one where everyone feels a sense of community, safety, belonging, and voice. Restorative practices in education embody the idea that connection must be in place in order for learning to take place. Connection de- creases undesired behaviors and increases neuroplasticity, as well as trust, among members of a group. That trust then increases the students’ ability to take the risks involved in learning, in addition to the motivation to work through conflict and repair harm. The component of restorative practices that involves repairing harm is present in the second tier of interven- tions, which take place after someone in the community does harm to an individual or the community as a whole. The person who has done harm goes through a series of reflection questions which include, What happened? What were you thinking at the time? What have you Continues on page 28 CSEE Connections Winter 2019 Page 27