Building relationships with students is nothing new to the FISD staff. This year, FISD provided another set of tools to secondary teachers and administrators through training in Restorative Practices. This summer, the National Educators for Restorative Practices spent two days at FISD teaching strategies that will help teachers build relationships with students enabling them to create classrooms that are conducive for connection and learning.
According to Dr. Christophor Galloway, FISD Director of Secondary Curriculum and Advanced Academics, restorative practices help educators be proactive instead of reactive. By using strategies that build relationships, teachers can help students avoid behaviors that could lead to disciplinary action.
“It’s about learning where your students are coming from and removing some of the barriers that keep them from getting an education,” said Galloway.
Restorative practices go beyond just the teacher/student relationship, they also focus on student-to- student relationships, providing teachers strategies that allow students to make connections with their classmates.
“Students can find connections, sometimes it might be about a favorite football team, but many times it goes deeper, and they are able to make connections that can help when there are conflicts in a classroom,” explained Galloway.
However, Dr. Galloway also understands that sometimes students may make a bad choice and that’s why there were two types of training provided. One for teachers that concentrated on the proactive practices, and one for administrators that concentrated on consequences for negative behaviors. The use of Restorative Practices doesn’t mean there are no consequences, it just means that some of those consequences may look different.
“Consequences could be the traditional in or out of school suspension, detention or alternative placement, however, there may be something additional like a restorative conference that gives the student the opportunity to rebuild a damaged relationship and understand what happened and why,” said Galloway.
Mr. Walter Lewis, FHS Assistant Principal, says that teachers and administrators are already using the strategies they learned this summer to help build relationships with students. The strategies aren’t time consuming, some lasting less than two minutes, but they spark conversations.
“Teachers are making those connections so that students are comfortable approaching them with problems. You have to connect before you redirect. You have to connect before you correct. That’s what it’s all about,” stated Lewis.
Dr. Sherri Bays, FISD Superintendent, says that the social and emotional well-being of our students directly impacts their academic success and that the use of Restorative Practices is another way that FISD is educating the whole child.
“The FISD Strategic Plan charges us to cultivate the social and emotional well-being of our students, and while that isn’t a new concept for us, we have to continue to find innovative and researched-based ways to do it. I am excited about what Restorative Practices can do to help us prepare students for prosperous lives.”