Most of the Hancock county professionals were new to restorative justice. However, as they learned about the principles and values of RJ, they were able to identify ways how what they are currently doing is consistent with restorative practices. Many easily articulated finding ways to expand these ideas further. Several teachers were excited to learn about the paradigm shift, moving away from punishment towards an outlook that seeks to find what harm was done and then look for ways to make right the wrongs and meet the needs of the offender, victim and the community.
Some teachers struggled with the idea of less authoritarian approach in the classroom. Midway through the training, we did a role play. Participants assumed roles as teachers, administrators, and students, including one very disruptive student who was having trouble learning. During the role play, the participant’s became perspective shifted. Some said that the time we had together had caused them to reexamine the way that they had done things and they were excited and looked forward to a new approach.
My favorite moment of the weekend followed some small group discussions we had about various challenges that we are trying to address with restorative justice. When we reconvened, we formed two circles in a Margolis wheel. Teachers from Hancock County sat on the inside of the circle, and those from Hancock on the outside of the circle as they shared the ideas that were generated from their small group discussions. It was rejuvenating for me to see how such experienced and dedicated teachers could be so excited about bringing RJ into their work.
Many of the participants came into the training thinking that the restorative justice in schools would be another program to invest in, roll out and then replace in few years. However, once they realized that RJ is more a "way of being" that allows the educators to integrate new ways into looking at wrongdoing in the educational environment into their communities.