In April 2014, students at Warren G. Harding Middle School in Phila- delphia, Pennsylvania, had just fin- ished a week of state testing, which they had found very stressful. Like
all Harding’s teachers, 7th grade language arts teacher Denise James had
her students sit in a circle and discuss
the purpose of the tests and how they
felt about having to take them.
The third girl to speak began to cry,
saying, “I know I’m better than what
the state says I am. I’m not ‘Basic’.”
A boy added, “My whole life I’ve
been told I’m ‘Below Basic,’ and that’s the way I felt.
But in here, I don’t feel like that.”
Harding is one of many schools employing restorative practices to
build relationships and improve school culture. Circles, like the ones
on testing conducted schoolwide at Harding, are one of many ele-
ments of restorative practices. From California to Maine, elementary,
middle, and high schools in urban, suburban, and rural areas are
using these practices, both to build relationships and to decrease
When schools use
to build relationships
change for the better.
in Philadelphia use a “talking piece” to indicate
whose turn it is to speak during a restorative
circle facilitated by teacher Denise James.