Living Justice Press

Why Train in My School?

It may seem like blasphemy for a publisher to say so, but books cannot do everything. They are a piece of the whole process—a resource, guide, and support. But this Circle and RJ/RP work in schools clearly requires much, much more for the vision of Restorative Practices to be realized for students, families, and school staff. Here are some points to consider.

 >  Comment submitted by a Restorative Justice Coordinator:  "I am officially the "Restorative Justice Coordinator"  And I'm miserable :)  Well, not completely miserable. The kids are great of course and there are some good things happening. But in general I feel really isolated and not in sync with the folks here. As terrible as the principal of [a former school] could get, there was a critical mass of staff members who believed in the work and practiced it, and/or supported it in various forms. That does not seem to be the case here."  

Simply getting a book, even a book as focused on schools as Circle Forward is, does not truly prepare a school for the process of creating an “Ecosystem of Care” in a school building.  When you want to shift school culture from punitive to restorative, so many considerations enter in.  A school community that wants to move away from zero tolerance must realize that this is a 3 to 5 year process and that it incorporates all stake holders.  It requires a lot of patience, know how, and grit to get the job done.

—Robert Spicer, Restorative Strategies, Chicago, IL

. . . the part [of Circle Forward] that I am particularly glad for is the section of Circles for staff to explore implementing restorative measures. These three Circles provide that essential first step in implementing any whole-school process: buy-in.

Restorative Practices, like Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports and Social and Emotional Learning, represent a paradigm shift for many people. The shift is away from shame, blame, and punishment and toward support and relationship. The idea is to “teach the behaviors we want to see”—to work with, not do to or for. How can we respect the whole child, instead of siloing academics away from the social, emotional, and physical needs of the students?

A paradigm shift requires movement within the head and the heart. Having the staff start with talking about who they are as people and what they value can help them build interest and excitement in making change. Using the Circle process for their own development, the adults can, perhaps, come to consensus about how to help the whole school move forward.

—Nancy Riestenberg, School Climate Specialist, Minnesota Department of Education, in the "Foreword" to Circle Forward


There is such a need for RP in schools and in the communities they serve that it would take three lifetimes of work for every person doing the RJ/RP work in schools to create the necessary social and emotional environments for children to thrive.

—Stephanie Autumn, Restorative Justice and Circle Trainer, Consultant, and Keeper


Training is desperately needed for Restorative Practices in our schools to teach how to BE with each other not to teach what to DO. I have been providing training and direct service to schools for over 20 years. We are teaching students how to “be” with each other and that is often in opposition to how their school staff “be” with each other and with students. When our school leaders embrace Restorative Practices, dissolving the negatives of hierarchy, we will all BE better!

—Jamie Williams, The Restorative Way, Minnesota

Circles are about a way of being together that is dramatically different from the routine habits of our culture. When we sit in Circle, we are “swimming against the current” of unconscious routines built into the very structure of the school day. These routines embody many unspoken rules and assumptions about how to behave and what is important in schools.

Becoming aware of these unconscious assumptions will help us understand why the Circle practice, which is so simple to practice in kindergarten, is so challenging when we try and practice it elsewhere. This awareness also helps to reduce anxieties and natural resistances to Circle practice that often arise in the beginning of implementation, especially among adults.

— Carolyn Boyes-Watson and Kay Pranis, in Circle Forward: Building a Restorative School Community


>   Check out "Eight Tips for Schools Interested in Restorative Justice", By Fania Davis, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth:

>   Since RP [Restorative Practices] development is primarily about culture change, it is distinctive from other ‘initiatives’. Evidence suggests that for schools full implementation will require three to six years.

Successfully implementing RP school-wide would require the following levels of staff training:

  • Initial awareness-raising for all staff is typically half to one-day equivalent
  • Initial training for all staff working directly with children is typically one-day equivalent, to be fully trained in conducting restorative dialogues
  • Training for staff using circle and conference interventions is typically two-three days.
  • ‘Training for trainers’ is typically around five days.

Successful schools recognize a ‘tipping point’, usually after more than half of the staff has undergone specific training following on from awareness-raising sessions. Sustainable development models tend to rely initially on external training providers, with a shift towards building internal capacity and ownership over time, often via combined ‘training for trainers’ programs. Schools also need to plan appropriate support for student, probationer and substitute teachers, as well as for supply and new staff.

— Minnesota Department of Education Implementation Guide

Home | Other Publishers' Books | Make a Donation | Submission Guidelines | RJ Links | News | Related Books | About LJP | Senior Editors | Contact Us | Order LJP Books | Training | Authors | About Circles | Circle Practitioners | Circle Process Graphics & Handouts