Connections Quarterly Winter 2019 - Restorative Practices - Page 6

S TAR T ING WITH A PAUSE Continued from page 3 deeply conditioned and informed by our implicit biases, belief systems, unconscious “knee-jerk” reactions, conscious judgments and prejudice, and capacity or lack thereof to be focused and fully present. In addition, our capacity to think clearly and respond in- stead of react is directly related to our abil- ity to stay grounded and regulated in the midst of conflict and stress. We can learn a script, the right words to say, but until we bring to light that which undermines our ability to be nonjudgmentally present, they are just words. Bringing mindful awareness to the habits and beliefs that inform our communica- tion is essential to our work as restorative teachers—as humans. Some questions for self-reflection around your communication style with challenging students: 1. Do you believe you need to have the answers and position yourself as the authority? 2. Do you think you know the student’s situation or experience? 3. Do you ask questions first or do you run with your assumptions? 4. Do you stop to consider, or inquire into, what role you or your lesson plan might have in the disruption? 5. Are you able to see the student’s be- havior as simply a disruptive attempt at getting their needs met? Page 4 Winter 2019 6. Do you have a strong desire to work with the student towards a solution rather than a desire to punish him, her, or them? Or make an example of her, him, or them? 7. Do you consider disruptive behavior a lack of skill or a lack of will? The Importance of Creating Connection and Accountability As I look back on my life as a young teacher I can easily recall other situations like the one with John. My go-to response for years was to avoid conflict by deflecting with humor or ignoring and redirecting attention with my particular brand of goofy charisma. With these techniques I was well liked and rarely, if ever, had conflict with students. Sounds pretty great right? Not really. While I could talk any student down from being escalated and made allies out of the toughest kids, these same kids continued to cause havoc outside of my class. So while it served me to avoid conflict it did not necessarily serve my kids, colleagues, or the school. They were not held accountable, and not holding students accountable, I have learned, is a powerful way of saying, “What you do doesn’t matter.” Sadly, I knew even less about how to serve the disengaged students who did the bare minimum to get by. I used my formidable enthusiasm to cajole them into learning, but often they slid back down into apathy, and because they didn’t cause “trouble” I of- ten left them there because I didn’t know what else to do. CSEE Connections