Hampstead Hill Academy is committed to building a caring school community, one based on positive relationships, inclusivity and respect. We do this, in part, through our Restorative Practices program, a comprehensive, whole-school approach to building community and reducing conflict. Based on best practices outlined by the International Institute of Restorative Practices (www.iirp.edu), we are committed to providing high-quality training and support to all of our school staff so we can better meet the needs of our students and families.
The specific restorative practices we use at HHA include:
1. Community-building circles conducted by homeroom teachers designed to build
connections in the classroom.
2. Affective statements (“I feel ___when___”) and questions (“How do you think ____ felt when _____?”) that help teach empathy and address off-task behavior.
3. Informal ‘breakfast clubs’ and ‘lunch bunches’ that help build social skills and self-confidence and enhance peer interactions and create or strengthen friendships.
4. Responsive circles and restorative conversations facilitated by staff members whenever a harm has occurred to address a harm that has occurred.
Questions typically asked during these responsive circles and restorative conversations include:
1. What happened?
2. What were you thinking/feeling at the time and/or what was your motivation?
3. What have you thought about (or how have you been feeling) since?
4. Who has been affected by what happened? In what ways?
5. What do you need to do to make things right?
Think Time worksheets and Behavior Reflection forms incorporate these questions and are generally completed independently by a student, and then sent home to be signed or reviewed by a parent/guardian.
In addition to these strategies, the Leaders Go Places (LGP) program for middle school serves as a great motivator to help our students excel academically, socially and behaviorally.
Social and Emotional Learning
To address the unique social and emotional challenges and needs of our students during the COVID-19 pandemic, community-building circles are more important than ever. To that end, circles/homeroom blocks have been built into the daily schedule. While most circles will feature fun, get-acquainted prompts (e.g., If you had to pick an outfit to reflect your mood, what would it be?), others may incorporate mini lessons on social and emotional learning (SEL) skills or mindfulness practices.
Many teachers use resources from the Second Step (www.secondstep.org) and/or Sanford Harmony (www.sanfordharmony.org ) programs to teach or reinforce important social skills like empathy, emotion management, impulse control and social problem solving. In the same way that restorative practices help build and repair relationships, SEL teaches the behavioral and social skills necessary for students to succeed in school and in life.
Mindfulness has been shown to be a powerful tool to help decrease stress and anxiety and strengthen attention and focus. Mindfulness incorporates a variety of skills, including breathing, stretches and movement. During in-person instruction, every day begins with a minute of schoolwide mindful breathing on the morning announcements. Homeroom and classroom teachers may also incorporate breathing exercises or other mindful movement exercises throughout the day using a variety of online resources and apps.