Posted on Nov 20th, 2020 by Lori Lynass Ed.D.

I have been reflecting this week, as it is International Restorative Justice Week and also Native American History month.  Across North America, many of the U.S. Native American tribes and the First Nations people of Canada, have used the talking circles as a traditional practice. The talking circle has served as a way of bringing people together for the purposes of teaching, listening, and learning. The use of talking circles has been a traditional form of education from early childhood through adulthood and provided a way to pass on knowledge, values, and culture (Sams, 1990). Now, several schools are getting to experience the benefits that many of our ancestors have practiced as a way to bring more peace and justice into their settings.

The talking circle is an essential piece of implementing restorative justice practices and is a powerful way to teach social-emotional learning, empathy, positive behavior, mindfulness and to build strong connections. These strong connections can happen between students, adults and students, adults to adults and the school to the larger community. These strong connections and feelings of mutual respect and dignity become the core of building an ethos of care in schools.

The talking circle serves as a nonhierarchical space where one person holding power over another is removed and replaced by everyone having power with each other. Student learn to become circle keepers and share the power equally with the adults. Everyone in the circle has the opportunity to both speak from the heart and listen from the heart. Thus, the talking circle can be used as an instructional approach, to foster self-awareness and multicultural awareness which honors both individual differences and group as a community of learners (Wolf & Rickard, 2011). This helps to develop more equitable learning environments.

If schools only turn to restorative justice practices as a tool to solve issues around behavior, they miss the true value of these practices, which is to build a place where every person can feel seen, heard and valued. That’s the power. Student’s show up in schools for the connection and that connection serves as a powerful force to preventing conflict, increasing learning and building skills that will serve every student across their lifetime.

Sams J.  (1990) Sacred path cards: the discovery of self through native teachings. San Francisco, CA: Harper San Francisco.

Wolf. P.R., & Rickard, J. A. (2011) Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development. Wiley-Blackwell. 31(1) pg.s 39-43

Back to School: Why America Needs Social Emotional Learning Before Academics

In the global learning laboratory that has been our shared, realtime classroom for grappling with a worldwide pandemic, each of us — adult, parent and child — is a student. 

– We’ve learned that no nation state on this planet can exist in isolation, walling itself off from the rest of the world. As a slogan, “America First” now sadly represents our ranking in the number of coronavirus deaths inside our borders compared to every other country on earth.

– We’ve learned that face masks are not a masquerade for any one political party but a means of blocking the transference of an unrelenting virus. Faceshields or eyewear are better still if the other person is not wearing a mask. Covid-19 has also been discovered to have an aerosol capacity so the virus can hang in the air for several minutes like an ominous cloud. A mask acts like an umbrella.

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The Struggle Continues: Racial Disparity in School Discipline


I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

– Excerpt from “I Have a Dream,” speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963, Washington, D.C.

More than 50 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated this dream, children’s academic and social success in U.S. public schools continues to depend, unfortunately, too much on the color of their skin. Compared to white students, African-American, Latino, and Native American students tend to achieve lower grades in key subject areas like reading and math, are disciplined more often and more severely, and graduate at lower rates. At the same time, black, Latino, and Native American youth are more likely to have contact with the juvenile justice system. These disparities have existed for decades, and—especially in the area of disciplinary exclusions—have increased since the 1970s. Continue reading

How to Help a Troubled Youth

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Reprinted with Permission from CPI

©CPI 2014. All content herein used with the permission of Crisis Prevention Institute, Inc. All rights reserved.

By Erin Harris | Posted on 08.26.2014 |

Oftentimes, kids with cognitive, emotional, or behavioral issues need your help.

But sometimes the behavior of a child or teen who struggles with a physical or emotional challenge can be hard to handle to say the least. The issues troubled kids deal with can cause them to act out in a variety of ways: They might be angry, frustrated, or defensive; they might be withdrawn or aggressive; they might challenge or resist your attempts to help. In these situations, their stress responses can flood them with emotions so intense that they’re unable to think or communicate rationally.

So what are your options when everything you try to do to help ends up escalating a kid’s behavior instead of defusing it? Continue reading