Restorative process resolves conflict between students
Jun 15, 2021|Written By: Angel Feero
At Abundant Life, we are always working to embody the 8 principles of Christian Community Development: Reconciliation, Redistribution, Relocation, Empowerment, Church-based, Leadership Development, Listening to the Community, and Holistic Approach. Reconciliation seems to be one of the most popular topics these days with the current events that have revealed much of the brokenness remaining in our nation. We often shrink away from reconciliation because working through conflict is hard and messy. When I see our elementary students struggling to work out relational problems, I often ask myself, how am I helping equip them to do this well?
This year, during our academic support program, we had a group of 4th graders who were constantly getting into arguments and picking on each other. At times I felt like all the talking in the world wouldn’t help them work through these issues. One day, things escalated to the point that three of our 4th grade students were threatening to physically fight. There was a moment where I was tempted to run away and hide but I knew in that moment they needed a calming presence and an adult to provide space for them to work through their feelings. There was yelling, chairs kicked over, and lots of pointing fingers.
Addressing conflict with restorative practices
“In that moment, I took a deep breath and said a prayer asking God to give me words and fill me with his spirit. I then began implementing what I knew of a process from Restorative Practices.”
These three kids – whom I will call Tyler, Vivian, and Michele – reluctantly sat down with me and would not even look at each other. In that moment, I took a deep breath and said a prayer asking God to give me words and fill me with his spirit. I then began implementing what I knew of a process from Restorative Practices, thanks to trainings from our very own Dylan Rosenthal! We formed a talking circle with a ball as our prop, signaling that only the person holding the ball could speak. I set ground rules that even though they might hear something they didn’t agree with or upset them, they had to wait until the person was finished speaking and passed the ball to them to say anything in response.
It was definitely an exercise in patience, listening, and learning to be empathetic, and I mean for all of us. These kids were fantastic as they calmed down and began to share with one another what they were feeling and how others had made them feel. At one point, Vivian vocalized her emotions so well that Tyler was at a loss for words. You could see the impact of what she was sharing and the recognition that their actions affected others in ways they did not intend. I really don’t feel like I did much at all besides let the Holy Spirit lead while asking questions to facilitate.
By the end of the 30-minute conversation, these kids, who had been inconsolable and angry, were talking and laughing together. Michele, Vivian, and Tyler ended up taking a selfie with me, which I sent to their parents. I’m so thankful for their parents, who had been aware of the conflict and had been working at home to talk through things with their children. When I think back on this experience, all I can say is look at God! He can take our difficult circumstances and turn them completely around. To Him be all the glory!