My students chose to enroll in Pre Law, and will stay in the program for all four years of high school. When students graduate from the program, they will have credit for up to four classes in the Criminal Justice department at the City Colleges. Most importantly, they are thoughtful, passionate about justice, and ready to apply what they learn in the class to their lives.
My sophomore class came up with this project during a unit on restorative justice. Already, my sophomores have shown maturity and thoughtfulness last year, when they invited their state representatives into their classroom to have a nuanced conversation on gun violence in the community and gun control bills in the state legislature. We started using peace circles to deal with conflict in the classroom, and they began asking for other elements that would make the class space more respectful of them. I'm impressed with their ability to advocate for themselves, and want to give them space to practice self-advocacy.
Students came up with this project through a unit on restorative justice. During the unit, they imagined what a restorative justice classroom would look like. They discussed that being physically uncomfortable can make it hard to focus, and that they would like classroom spaces that allow them more freedom of movement. Through this project, they are working on self-advocacy and self-management, as well as working to develop and experience a more democratic classroom.
In Their Own Words
We are trying to create a restorative justice classroom. We already participate in peace circles, and we're learning how to restore relationships after conflict. We feel that a restorative justice classroom should feel like home, and in order to feel like home we want a space to sit with bean bags, a sofa, a rug, and a low table to work on.
Students need to take leadership if a classroom is going to operate with the principles of restorative justice. We are practicing being advocates for ourselves and our community, and we plan to use these skills in the future. In Law class, we participate in service-learning projects, and we want practice writing grants!
We believe that restorative justice in a classroom means that our physical comfort should be respected. We want to make our learning environment better. Classrooms can be uncomfortable, and students can find it hard to learn in that kind of environment. We want a classroom that feels like home, and we want a space that helps us build relationships with our classmates. If we have a better space, it will be easier for us to get our work done.
We also know that sometimes we are stressed or angry and want somewhere to calm down. We want a space that recognizes that when we're having a bad day we can take the space we need to get ready to learn.
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