Jen WilliamsThe IIRP provided restorative practices training to 500 middle- and high-school students in the Miami-Dade County, Florida, School District. Jen Williams, IIRP '16, a middle school counselor, shares her experience of developing and presenting this training:

I was blown away when IIRP Lecturer Mary Jo Hebling asked to me to share my work with the Miami-Dade School District. The students in the Restorative Training Program in my small rural school in Southeastern Pennsylvania are trail blazers to me, but I never expected to be asked to share our work with others.  

Adapting the training was no easy task. My curriculum covers a semester of activities, and this training would take one day. Mary Jo, IIRP Lecturer Beth Smull and I determined the scope and sequence. It would focus on developing leadership, interpersonal and restorative skills. We modified it to include “kid-friendly” language and incorporated videos and role plays to embrace multiple learning styles. 

We trained 17 instructors via long-distance video — including seven IIRP alumni — to provide the program.

Miami studentsWhen we arrived in Miami, many of us meeting in person for the first time, I could tell that everyone believed in the mission to empower these students.

When I entered the ballroom for the opening breakfast and saw the 500 student participants, tears welled in my eyes. What began as a group of 15 students in my school felt like a movement. The students chanted: "I will be heard!" They were ready to learn! 

The 23 middle schoolers in my room approached the actvities with gusto. In one day, I watched them evolve from a punitive “To” to a restorative “With” mindset. When conflict arose during a role play, one student postured aggressively toward another. By the end, she couldn’t wait to try out restorative questions with her peers. In the checkout circle, students said the training had helped them make eye contact to build connections with others and gave them hope to make a difference in their school culture.

This day affirmed for me once again the power of restorative processes to foster strong relationships and melt away cultural differences. I am optimistic that the next generation will be one that seeks first to restore.

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