We all need stories. To tell them honestly, and to deeply listen to them, is essential to our sense of who we are, as individuals and as a community.
We'd like to share some of our stories, beginning with this one from a parent of an adolescent son.
Check back often: we'll be updating and adding more stories regularly to this page .
“When people don’t include others…
that happens a lot”
Lisa, a fifth-grader, was quiet in our first couple of classroom circles, taking the talking piece when it came to her, then passing it to the next student without speaking.
When the talking piece came to Lisa again, she held it silently for a moment. But instead of passing it along, she quietly, said, “When people don’t include others… that happens a lot.” We asked what she meant. She explained that sometimes on the playground she would try to join a group of girls in conversation or a game, “They turn their backs on me and pretend I don’t exist.” Other students nodded their heads; they too had the same experience. They too had felt the same pain.
We added “excluding” to the list of things the students were concerned about, and by the fourth week of Restorative Classrooms Process, Lisa’s class had learned to view all challenging behavior in terms of the impact it had on others.
As one of Lisa’s classmates put it, “It’s not just about someone being bad; it’s about all of us.”
In the seventh week we revisited the question about what issues were affecting the class. Students named many of the same things, but there was a difference. For most of the issues we brought up, someone would say, “That’s not really happening any more.” and there would be a general chorus of agreement.
When excluding others came up, Lisa immediately spoke up. “I don’t think that’s so much of an issue now,” she said. Someone else said, “Well sometimes… but not nearly as much.” Lisa smiled and nodded her agreement.
A letter from a mother
I was at my wits end with my adolescent son. Three weeks into the school year he was arrested for assault. This time he had caused physical harm to another teen. I asked that he be taken to juvenile hall. I explained to the arresting officer a lifetime of assorted attempts to change the destructive course my son was obviously on.
The beginning of the REAL change happened the day we got involved with Restorative Resources. For the first time my son was forced to look at how his actions impacted others in a domino-like effect. The connection was genuine as he had to look at the faces and into the eyes of numerous individuals wronged by the unscrupulous choice he had made on that day.
Through the restorative process he was forced to take responsibility for his behavior and to make a real effort to repair the harm he had caused so many people.
My son concluded this program with astounding personal growth...This is not to say he doesn’t make poor choices now and then; the difference is he takes responsibility for his choices and seeks to resolve and repair harm on his own. For the first time in his life, I believe my son is proud of the person he is becoming.
“I’m going to take that family for everything they have!”
That’s what the insurance company representative told us after Anthony (not his real name) lost control of a bottle rocket (firecracker) on school grounds that lit up a bush next to a classroom and caused $300,000 worth of damage to the building and its contents. It’s a sentiment that is perfectly within the insurance company’s representative’s rights, as a legitimate entity who was impacted by the incident.
The insurance representative came to the Restorative Conference. It was the first time she actually met Anthony and his mother, Maria, who was a single parent with a part time job.
As she listened to them talk, she came to understand their situation. She saw how sincerely remorseful they were, how much Anthony regretted the accident — and that, indeed, it was an accident. She also came to understand how deeply he wished he could fix this situation.
Maria said she would do everything she could to make it right. She offered to cash out the $4,200 she had in a retirement fund as a first payment.
The insurance agent got up from her chair, walked across the circle, sat next to the mother and said, “Don’t take out that money. Together we’ll find a way to work this out.”
And they did.