The Role of Teachers in Restorative Practices 


The realm of education is increasingly embracing the transformative potential of restorative practices. As agents of socialization and guardians of learning environments, teachers hold a unique position to foster a culture centered on restoration rather than retribution. Their role in this paradigm shift is indispensable, as they can facilitate dialogue, model empathetic behavior, and create a classroom environment conducive to learning and personal growth. This article delves into the crucial role teachers play in restorative practices, informed by the work of leading academics in the field, and illustrated with relevant case studies.

Philosophical Underpinnings

Restorative practices draw from an interdisciplinary well of philosophical principles, covering domains such as psychology, sociology, and criminal justice. Notable academics like Howard Zehr have articulated the core tenets of restorative justice, offering a framework that can be adapted to educational settings (Zehr, 2002). Likewise, Nancy Riestenberg’s work in “Circle in the Square” provides educators with tangible strategies for utilizing restorative practices in the classroom (Riestenberg, 2012).

Teachers as Facilitators

In the restorative model, teachers act as facilitators rather than merely authoritative figures. They guide restorative circles or dialogues, ensuring that all voices are heard and that a constructive outcome is reached. The focus is less on punishment and more on addressing the harm done and finding ways to heal. In her work on classroom management, Rita Alfred illuminates how teachers can adapt their role to better serve restorative outcomes, making the case for a shift in traditional teacher roles (Alfred, 2014).

Restorative Techniques in Classroom Management

One of the primary roles of a teacher is classroom management, an area where restorative practices have shown remarkable promise. Instead of punitive measures like detentions or suspensions, teachers apply strategies like conflict resolution circles and peer mediation. These processes help in addressing the root cause of disruptive behavior, thereby fostering a more harmonious learning environment. Thorsborne and Blood have extensively documented these approaches in their book “Implementing Restorative Practice in Schools” (Thorsborne & Blood, 2013).

Case Study: Oakland Unified School District

The Oakland Unified School District in California offers a compelling case study in the successful implementation of restorative practices. Teachers underwent specialized training in facilitating restorative dialogues and reported a marked decline in disciplinary issues and an increase in academic engagement. This success can be partially attributed to the teachers’ active role in promoting restorative justice as an integral part of school culture.

Cultural Context

Restorative practices have deep cultural and historical roots, tracing back to indigenous justice systems that emphasized community harmony over punitive sanctions. Teachers aiming to implement restorative practices can find value in these traditions, tailoring their approaches to be culturally sensitive and inclusive. This is not just a methodological choice, but a commitment to a more equitable form of education.

Challenges and Obstacles

While the benefits of restorative practices are numerous, teachers face significant challenges in implementation. These range from lack of administrative support and resources to resistance from colleagues who are accustomed to punitive disciplinary measures. Sufficient professional development and ongoing support are critical for teachers to overcome these barriers.

Policy Implications and Professional Development

Effective implementation of restorative practices requires a structural commitment that goes beyond individual teachers. Policymakers should consider frameworks that provide teachers with the necessary training and resources. Further, professional development programs could be specifically designed to skill teachers in restorative techniques, as suggested by educational psychologist David Osher (Osher, 2002).


Teachers stand at the forefront of the shift towards a more restorative and empathetic model of education. Their role transcends the traditional boundaries of instruction and discipline, evolving into that of a facilitator of social and emotional learning. The integration of restorative practices in schools not only benefits students but rejuvenates the educational experience as a whole. As thought leaders and case studies have demonstrated, when empowered with the right training and resources, teachers can become transformative agents in adopting and benefiting from restorative practices.


  • Zehr, Howard. “The Little Book of Restorative Justice.” Good Books, 2002.
  • Riestenberg, Nancy. “Circle in the Square: Building Community and Repairing Harm in School.” Living Justice Press, 2012.
  • Thorsborne, Margaret, and Blood, Peta. “Implementing Restorative Practice in Schools: A Practical Guide to Transforming School Communities.” Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2013.
  • Alfred, Rita. “Teacher’s Guide to Tackling Attendance Challenges.” ASCD, 2014.
  • Osher, David. “Creating Comprehensive and Collaborative Systems.” Journal of Child and Family Studies, 2002.