3 Benefits of Restorative Dialogue for English Learners
Faced with a growing population of English language learners (ELLs), one school district is taking a collaborative approach to addressing the multidimensional needs of its students.
In a recent episode of our Field Trip podcast, we talked with Grace Delgado, the Director of Language Acquisition, and Lorin Furlow, the Director of Special Services, of Brazosport Independent School District near Houston, Texas. Grace and Lorin have developed and incorporated restorative practices with ELL classroom tools in a way that is making a profound difference in their school district.
Through conversations about the common needs of their ELLs and those referred for behavioral issues, Grace and Lorin realized they could best serve their schools by combining their areas of expertise. They looked for a way to address not just surface behavioral issues, but also the underlying lack of confidence and community that complicate the high-school experience for students who are also striving to acquire English as a second language while keeping up in school. The result was bringing the restorative practice of circles, where a teacher facilitates respectful conversation among students, into their ELL classrooms.
When asked what difference these circles have made in the lives of students and staff in Brazosport ISD, Grace and Lorin shared three big changes:
1. Strengthening student voice and confidence
The students who have participated in restorative practices in the context of their ELL classroom have flourished. In one student’s own words, he feels the circles have given him “voice and confidence and an avenue to get over his shyness with speaking that he struggled with on a daily basis.” Not only has their English truly improved, as shown in their confident and public participation in school assemblies, but they have also shown a real, developing compassion for their fellow students. In Lorin’s words, their language has changed from “them” and “they” to “us.” And as this small community builds circles into their classrooms, behavioral issues are less and less a problem out in the hallways of the school.
The teachers who agree to bring the practice of circles into their class have also grown, learning to “facilitate learning versus direct learning,” how to listen and respond. They play a key role in the learning and growth of these students. And as the district continues to fine-tune its program, teachers can give their own feedback and shape how their students will be served in the future.
Where circle facilitation has been incorporated into classrooms, the campus culture has been profoundly affected. In the words of one student, “You really get to know people through the conversations that happen in circles.” Where teachers’ and students’ understanding of one another has deepened, the climate of the entire campus is impacted powerfully.
These benefits have come after much collaboration and deliberation around:
The right teachers to train as facilitators
How to create a helpful circle routine
What resources each classroom needs
How to be sure that standards are not overlooked as instructional time is spent in circles
But the results have been well worth it.
Want to learn more about facilitating restorative practices for ELLs? Listen to the full podcast.
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Danielle is part of the global, award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She graduated from Emerson College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Writing, Literature and Publishing, and has developed content to empower the education community for over 10 years.