Restorative Justice as a Means of Integrating Curriculum & Promoting Social and Emotional Learning
Kindergarten teachers hold a unique position in that they are responsible for laying the groundwork for all future educational experiences of a child and the social/emotional capacities with which they do so. Such a big responsibility must not be taken for granted, even when going through the perhaps mundane process of creating a C shape while holding a pencil correctly. At ages four and five, kindergarten students have the capacity to do much more than they are often given credit for. A capacity that only blossoms with proper guidance and education. Krogh and Morehouse’s The Early Childhood Curriculum argues the importance of inquiry-based learning and curriculum integration as the most effective means for children to meet their social/emotional capacities and academic potential.
Evans and Vaanderling, along with other Restorative Justice advocates (Pranis, Boyes-Watson, Zehr, Davis, Stutzman Astutz, Mullet, et al.), would suggest that students succeed most often when they are learning in a safe, just, equitable, and encouraging environment and that such an environment is best fostered through adherence to the guideposts of restorative justice in education.
This author, however, believes that when educators and administrators understand the importance of both Restorative Justice in Education and inquiry-based learning and are given the tools to implement both in their classrooms and learning communities, students will reach their ultimate potential, develop healthily, and be excited about learning in ways we don’t see nearly often enough.
What is Restorative Justice?
Belinda Hopkins describes the process of Restorative Justice (RJ) well in chapter one of Just Schools: a Whole School Approach to Restorative Justice:
In broad terms, restorative justice constitutes an innovative approach to offending and inappropriate behaviour which puts repairing harm done to relationships and people over and above the need for assigning blame and dispensing punishment (Wright 1999). Put even more simply, it is about asking the following questions:
Who has been affected and how?