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In recent years, there has been a shift away from traditional school discipline, like detention and suspension, toward restorative practices. This involves recognizing the importance of empathy, communication, and understanding why children may cause disruptions in classrooms.

The caring and understanding approach often achieves results.

Teachers and school support personnel are helping students grow and learn from their mistakes, as opposed to facing punitive consequences.

West40 professional learning specialist Demian LaPointe has spent 29 years in the education field working as a teacher, administrator and consultant. He’s used restorative practices in his classroom experiences and now he helps educators change the way they respond to students who act out at school.

“When a child is dysregulated in a classroom, it may look like, ‘I don’t want to do your work’ or ‘you can’t talk to me that way’. It may look like a really scary, disruptive experience between two kids who can’t get along in a classroom because they’ve never been taught how to navigate their behaviors,” LaPointe said. “And so the new way of doing business is about trying to find the underlying cause, the antecedent of the behavior, and then ways we can shape and change that behavior so that students can learn from the experience while they’re still under our care and under our counsel.”

LaPointe added that when students leave school systems, the choices they make impact not only their lives, but the lives of every member of their community.

Building trust with a student is a good first step in the restorative practices process.

For LaPointe, a smile goes a long way.

“I honestly believe that joy and happiness can be contagious. That feeling seen and acknowledged starts immediately to build a sense of community and break down the walls,” LaPointe said. “I think an inviting smile and asking questions about them. That sounds like easy advice that any teacher or parent could follow. It just seems like we talk all the time about ways for kids to feel connected and to share authentically of who they are. It’s one of the reasons why I really love restorative practices.”

You can hear more of LaPointe’s approach to restorative practices on the Shift Everything podcast.

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