The first day of school always seems to sneak up on me. Students, parents and teachers alike are focused on getting new school supplies, getting themselves more organized, and planning other details for the school year. Most of these components are controllable. However, there seem to be a number of components that are completely out of our control… or are they?
When school starts, students experience a shift in environment, from home to the classroom. There is a strict schedule, new faces to get used to, academic work that needs to be done, and much more. It can come as a shock to students and they often act out in ways that are outside of their normal behaviors. We cannot control the strong feelings that students have, but we can control how they deal with those feelings.
The first tool that we can give students is the ability to use their words. This looks like a student expressing what they are feeling, if they are calm enough to use their words. This is the first step in restorative practices. You might consider putting up a feelings chart somewhere in your classroom where students can reference how to express themselves.
A second component that can help students deal with strong feelings is a “Peace Center” or a “Peace Corner”. This space is somewhere in the classroom where a student can remove themselves from the trigger that is causing the issue. This trigger, especially in the beginning of the school year, could simply be their desk. The student might just need a different space to be. The “Peace Center” could have tactile “calm down” manipulatives, such as play dough, a fidget, a journal and pencil, an appreciation jar to get the student back to a positive space, and something soft and comforting like a pillow or a blanket. In the beginning of the year each student should have a time in the “Peace Center” to test out the space.
These practices are a great start to restorative practices in the classroom. The goal is for students to build relationships with other students in a classroom where they feel a sense of community and support. In turn, students should gain more independence to self-reflect and make decisions on how to manage themselves in the classroom and further in the world.