Educators Train on Ways to Stop Conflict in School Before it Happens

June 22, 2018 06:01 PM

Hundreds of educators in districts across the state are looking for better ways to teach, empower and communicate with their students.

This summer, many of them are participating in Restorative Practices Training offered by the Minnesota Department of Education.


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"We as adults are always teaching kids social skills and so we should be intentional about how we do that," said Nancy Riestenberg, a restorative practices specialist with the Department of Education.

For two weeks in June, educators spent time with experts to learn how to respond to conflict through communication. Trainings were held in Cloquet, Bemidji and Crystal, reaching greater Minnesota for the first time this summer.

Riestenberg said 650 people, in total, were trained this summer on restorative practices statewide. They're principals, teachers, social workers and counselors who can bring what they've learned back to their home communities to expand on the practices.

"For me, it's learning a new way of building relationships with students," said Hopkins West Junior High Assistant Principal Matthew Johnson.

"We have a system that says we have a consequence but that's not actually where the richest learning takes place," said program coordinator Becky McCammon, who also uses the same tools with her family to help develop strong relationships.

Using restorative practices in school is not just a different approach to discipline.

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The overall goal is to create a familiar foundation to return to later if a student is in crisis or having conflict.

"It gives students the opportunity to have voice within a circle, to hear each other. So when those tough times come, when conflict does happen, they'll have the skills. They'll have learned the skills to listen and then to speak their truth," said Johnson.

They're stripping communication back to the basics.

"To hear your heart instead of hearing your words," said Perpich Arts High Assistant Principal Christopheraaron Deanes. "Because words don't always give you the emotion."

Riestenberg says these trainings are based off of practices tribes have used in Minnesota for generations. That, and restorative justice councils led by inmates at prisons in Carlton County that have proven to have improved inmate behavior.


Katherine Johnson

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