Over the course of our time implementing restorative practices, we have come to learn that this is not just a strategy but a part of our school’s culture. It is my personal opinion that at the core of restorative practices is building relationships that work to prevent harm and conflict from even occurring. When I say building relationships, I mean knowing our students beyond who they are in our classrooms. I see a lot of our teachers doing this – they sit and talk with their students when they are having a tough day, they show up on a Saturday for their student’s cross country meet, they stand outside to greet their kids as they come in (every single day, not just the first week, but consistently), they can tell you back stories for kids who are not even in their class and they show they care through their daily and consistent actions. We have so many teachers who are doing these things and working to build relationships with their kids to prevent conflict before it even happens. When we build those relationships and create a feeling of community, harm is less likely to occur because we do not want to hurt something that we feel we are a part of. So, the question is, how do we make sure that all of our students feel like they are part of our school culture and they help make our classroom communities positive?
Consistently using restorative practices (trust circles, buddy-up, affective statements, dual purpose lessons with connections to social emotional learning, pointing out examples of character strengths, and many more that you can read about in this old blog post) all work to start building these calming classroom cultures. However, what do we do when these strategies are “not enough” for some of our learners? We need to do something that is more personal and individualized.
The 2×10 strategy is an idea where educators spend two minutes a day for ten days in a row getting to know a student. This time should be spent talking with them about something they want to talk about. It does not need to be academic but it should be something that the student is interested in, within reason, of course. Hear the kid out and learn about what they are interested in.
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a student who was waiting for their counseling session to start. I had always struggled with building a relationship with this particular student. I happened to be working on a music grant and I learned that this student was part of the our band program. I asked about what they needed and how adding more instruments would impact him personally. Over the next few, days, he came to me with more ideas and we worked together to create a quote from this student that explained the positive impact the grant would have if it provided instruments to our learners. Because of this 2×10 – 2 minutes a day talking about band instruments for 10 days – this student felt empowered and knew that I cared about their personal interests. This helped us build a more positive relationship.
I am not saying that every conversation has to result in a product. Instead, it should be natural and heartfelt instead of forced and fake. Below are some generic conversation starters to get this going (be sure to tweak these so they match your natural speaking style):
- I would really appreciate knowing more about ____.
- I am so proud of how you ____.
- How did ____ go?
- Tell me about something you did recently that you enjoyed.
- What are you thinking?
- I thought of you yesterday when _____.
- I appreciate _____.
- I noticed _____.
- I remember you mentioning that you ______, how is that going?
Critics of this strategy point to fact that this is taking away from instructional time; however, if behavior is extreme, that is taking a lot more than two minutes of your instructional time in your classroom to resolve. Angela Watson wrote a great blog post titled Overcoming 3 Biggest Obstacles in Building Relationships with Kids where some of your questions and concerns may be addressed.
With the trauma that children experience today, the 2×10 strategy can help them recognize the safe places we have on campus and help open up communication and build trust and a sense of community.
*All pictures include Feaster teachers, Ms. Bates, Mr. Thorburn and Ms. Cortez working to build relationship with individual students.