Joe has been the victim of two separate violent anti-gay hate crimes and what began as a personal healing response to the trauma, he has transformed into professional involvement in the field of community and restorative justice. Since 2010, Joe has actively helped schools implement peer mediation programs and school-wide restorative practices. As a private consultant beginning in 2015, Joe has designed a trauma-informed approach of restorative practices and infused this model in schools.
Support Joe Brummer:
Get your copy of Building Trauma Informed Restorative Schools
David (he/him): Welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are you?
Joe Brummer (he/him): Oh, geez. I am the son of Carl and Mary Jane, the husband of Rick, the doggy daddy of Maggie, the cute, adorable American Eskimo, and I'm a trauma informed restorative practitioner.
David (he/him): Who are you?
Joe Brummer (he/him): I would also say I'm the survivor of pretty significant traumas.
David (he/him): Okay.
Joe Brummer (he/him): And so I count that as part of my identity as a gay man, I'm a person who grew up and faced bullying, child abuse two violent Antiga hate crimes. I'm, I'm a survivor of trauma and, and a product of post-traumatic growth.
David (he/him): Who are you?
Joe Brummer (he/him): Wow. Gets harder on that third time. I would say I'm also a struggler.
Like I, I struggle from the things I've been through yet, I don't ever seem to lose hope.
David (he/him): Mm-hmm. Who are you?
Joe Brummer (he/him): That guy on your podcast. I'm this guy, people have been asking a lot of questions about trauma and restorative justice. I'm an author who likes to write and has long used writing as a way for me to find a home for my thoughts. And so I'm, I've written a book and I'm in the process of writing two more.
David (he/him): Mm-hmm who are you?
Joe Brummer (he/him): People seem to like my answers, even if they're right or wrong or good or bad, I seem to be saying something people like. And so I keep doing it.
David (he/him): Who are you?
Joe Brummer (he/him): Wow. Gets really hard. I'm an, I'm an out proud, happy gay man, which I think is in today's world. I used to think that was getting to be less of a big deal until places like Florida and Texas have, have. And other states are trying to pass these, don't say gay bills. And so I feel like saying it as much as possible. I'm gonna say gay gay, gay, gay, gay, over and over, and until people get upset.
And then I'm just gonna say it some more.
David (he/him): Finally for, for now. Who are you?
Joe Brummer (he/him): Wow. I hope that I'm a change maker for the right direction. I hope.
David (he/him): Well, I already know that you are you are so many things we're gonna get to the intersections of many of those when we come back right after this.
Well, welcome back, Joe.
And may I say happy pride, although it's now July at the time, this is being aired. Gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay happy pride. It's good to be here with you in the middle of pride month. It's always also good. Start with a check in. So to the fullest extent that you want to answer the question on these airwaves in this time, this place, how are you?
Joe Brummer (he/him): I am. Feeling energized. I'm getting on a plane tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon. I'm getting on a plane to go into Nashville, Tennessee for the trauma informed educators network conference, where I get to present with a bunch of really cool people and meet with a bunch of cool people. And so I'm just excited.
One to see old friends like Matt Portel and, and and the sort of, you know, the trauma informed educators network that I've come to love and know. So I I'm feeling pretty energized and looking forward, not looking forward to getting on a plane. You know, for some, even though I've had all, you know, all four shots, what is it?
The, the initial shots, the booster shot. And then I just got another booster shot, still making me a little nervous to get on a plane but all right, whatever we're doing it.
David (he/him): You know, the calculated risks we take to share this work and you know, we'll make sure to plug the book now and multiple times through your framework for building a trauma informed restorative school is a large part of why we have you on the podcast.
And, you know, on these airwaves, most of the time people are talking about restorative justice, restorative practices, indigenous peace making sometimes transformative justice even. But we haven't yet had someone bring this trauma informed lens very specifically. And I know, you know, many restorative practitioners, they're like, oh, okay, well, restorative justice is inherently trauma informed.
And you're like, no, and we're gonna talk about some of the nuances of those practices. But before we get into all of that you've been doing this work for a long time longer than you you've even known the words, restorative justice. So in your own words, how did this get started for you?
Joe Brummer (he/him): You know, I, I don't actually it's, I think that's funny that you should say it longer than I've even known the words restorative justice.
I mean, even when I was a kid I, you know, I was a Beatles fan, listening to John Lennon, say, I'll stay in bed for peace. You know? So I had this kind of lens that was like, peace as possible. Like I was, I, I got that from music. I, I got that from being a little rock and roll kid. And I grew up with parents that listened to, you know, basically peace protest music, like Peter Paul and Mary and, and Bob Dylan.
And so some of that was just ingrained in me that this idea of peace. And then as I got older, you know, I, I don't know. I ended up getting into work that I didn't plan to, like, as a, as a kid, you know, you always think like you're gonna be whatever it is you set out to be as a kid. And which for me was a, a musician, you know, I, I wanted to be, you know, rock and roll guy that wrote music and played music, which I still do just that took second. It took a back burner to the work I do now. And I think the turning point for me, the turning point came after 2000. I was gay bashed for the second time. And this time I think my anger turned more into, I have to do something like I can't sit around and not do something.
I just had to figure out what that was and somehow all these, like, you know, the stars align the universal aligned and the next thing you know, You know, the associate director at a community mediation center, I'm doing mediations in courtrooms. I'm doing restorative justice. I end up in a, a three day victim offender, mediation training with VOMA which I think, think you and I have talked about before.
I I'm not even sure VOMA exists anymore if they do, it's really small. But I took this three day, you know, restorative justice training and I was introduced to this concept and it just worked for me. But at the same time, I was also working in mental health and learning about trauma. And I still hadn't put these things together yet.
But along the line of like doing the restorative justice work, I started wondering like, we're not seeing this through this lens of trauma and how it impacts everything. And so I, I started trying to figure out, like, why are the people who are doing restorative justice work, not talking about trauma.
Why are the people who are doing trauma informed schools work, not talking about restorative justice? And so I had this sort of burning desire to find a way to bring these two worlds together. Yeah. Now here I am.
David (he/him): Beautiful. Beautiful. And I think, you know, for the purposes of this conversation, lots of people approach these words, these frameworks in different ways.
And sometimes at the end of the podcast, we ask people to give their definition of restorative justice. I think it might be helpful right now just to give a framing for the way that we're talking about these terms, both trauma informed and restorative justice. How do you conceptualize those frameworks now in 2022?
Joe Brummer (he/him): Yeah. And I like the word conceptualize more than I like define. And so I, I appreciate that question. I, I think for me, which I think is hard for some folks, the terms non-violence. The term restorative justice, the term trauma informed care. These all mean the same things to me. Like they're part of the same, big puzzle of how do we live at our values, right?
How do we take care of other humans, honor their humanity and still hold them accountable when things don't go well. And so for me, the, the sort of framework of all of this is to say, and, and I don't, and, and, you know, we covered this earlier. I think sometimes that, you know, many people think that restorative justice work is inherently trauma informed and, and I'm one of those people that doesn't believe that's true.
Like nothing can be inherently trauma informed unless it acknowledges how our nervous systems work, how our. our brains and our fight or flight mechanisms work. And if we are not talking about that very explicitly, I have a really hard time believing that anybody's work could be inherently trauma informed.
David (he/him): Yeah.
Joe Brummer (he/him): And so I think the indigenous lens that we put on restorative justice, like this current movement I think indigenous folks had an understanding of trauma especially, you know, the Maori people like they had inherently understandings that rhythm soothed us, that relationships soothed us, that reciprocity heals us.
That got lost in our current movement. And so now I think people, you know, people just say, oh, I'm getting in a circle. So it's restorative, but you can get in a circle and yell at people. That doesn't make it restorative. Like what makes these things restorative trauma informed is, is how we show up. And so I think if I were to sum up this, this idea, trauma informed restorative practices are how we show up and how we co-regulate with each other's nervous systems.
Very intentionally. You know, I, I borrow a line. I, I did a, a training this morning with my buddy, Justin Carella from Middletown, Connecticut. And he always says that restorative justice is about doing good things on purpose. There are no happy accidents that we, we do this work with intentionality, but in order to do that, you have to have a focus on not what's wrong with people, but what happened to them?
you know, what are the things we've been through that put us where we are so that we offer that grace and understanding and empathy to people regardless what they've done. So we can see their humanity.
David (he/him): I wanted to highlight a couple of things and we're gonna, you know, zero in and like get into the, get into the details.
You talked about trauma and you know, when people say trauma, oftentimes they're talking about a traumatic event, right. A traumatic stressor, but like you defined it very differently. We talked about like the ways that neural pathways like adapt to deal with those stressors. Do you want to like give a little bit more context to what we mean by being trauma informs trauma, responsive trauma.
Joe Brummer (he/him): Trauma sensitive and yeah. Yeah. So it's, it's probably helpful to just start off with like, what is trauma. Yeah. And, and you're right. People think of trauma as the events we go through, but it's not, it's how our bodies respond to those events and how our bodies hold that. And it literally is a whole body experience.
And so I think SAMSA's three E are a great first step at like really just again, conceptualizing what does it mean? Because two people can go through the same events and only one of them walk away with the symptoms of trauma, anxiety, depression, or, you know, reoccurring thoughts of the event. And the other person walks away and was like, you know, that was Tuesday like what happened? And so the three E from SAMSA are helpful that say it's the event, the experience and the effects. And so again, two of us can be at the same event, but have completely different experiences. Therefore there's gonna be different impacts, you know, a different effect.
And so to be trauma informed is to one, to be aware that we are the products of every experience we've ever had. And that every experience we've had has created a template for us about the world that it's either a safe place to be, or it's not such a safe place to be. And when we are trauma informed, we're taking consideration of the things people may or may not have gone through because trauma is just as much about what doesn't happen to us as what does.
And so, you know, for instance, neglect. So maybe you went through some horrible experiences or maybe some things that were supposed to happen for you just didn't like love and care from an adult or attachment or, or exposure to love. And those things shape who we are when we can start to see the world through that lens of, it's not what's wrong with you.
It's what happened to you, you know, which is of course from, you know it's a, a nod in a wink to Sandra bloom and her sanctuary model that was created back in, in, in the early nineties and at Northwestern hospital. And it, it, it, so this idea of being trauma, sensitive, being trauma aware is that we've set up.
It, it means a couple of things. It means that one we can recognize in other people that, where they are in the world right now, Might be based on where they've been, but also how we set up an environment can E either be a safe space for someone or full of evocative cues that set off their nervous system into fight flight, freeze, faint.
And are we mindful when we show up of how we show up what we mean, who we are and what we bring to the table, and that might be different for other people who experience us than it is for us. So being trauma informed is being aware that I'm, I'm a five, three white guy , you know, and, and I know when I show up in a space, regardless of who I am or what I think of myself, I show up as a five, three white male, and I, that's not in my control.
That's just the world. And that how I think I'm showing up and how I'm actually showing up. Aren't the same thing. And so to be trauma informed is to be empathic, to not only how I think I'm showing up, but to how other people think I'm showing up. And sometimes that's out of our hands. Like we, we can't always control some of those things, especially for people who've been exposed to trauma in their life because we have these reflexive responses to the world and the evocative cues, otherwise known as quote unquote triggers, which I'm trying to personally get rid of that word outta my language
David (he/him): activations.
Joe Brummer (he/him): Yeah. Activations. But I know that people are used to the word trigger. And so I don't wanna confuse anyone, but, but it is a reference to a gun and somehow thinking restorative and trauma informing guns, doesn't all seem to add up for me. And so I'm trying to get rid of the word trigger. I, it still ends up, you know, being part of the, the language because it's part of, you know, this, this work people are just used to it.
And so. I think the, I know the short answer is to be trauma informed is to be empathic, to both how other people experience us, but to be conscious of the experiences that they may have had that we just don't know about, you know, to, to treat everyone with the possibility that the days before we met them.
Weren't good. Dang,
David (he/him): Joe. I thought all I had to do is show up in a restorative circle and ask what happened, who was impacted and how, and how do we make things, right? Whose responsibility is it to, you know, meet these needs? What, you know, bringing this lens of trauma. And, you know, I do think I was reductive in my presentation of like, oh, this is just a restorative process where we're gonna ask these questions and everybody's gonna have it happy ending and get their needs met.
Like it, of course it's more nuance than that. And everyone who calls themselves a restorative practitioner. Should know that, right. We do ask questions that do get to some of those root causes, but you don't always have the analysis of, you know, who am I showing up into this space? How is that impacting others?
Like the way that you show up? And the way that I show up as a six one like like a black Filipino male, like, is very different and it's gonna be a very different impact in the different context that we both traffic in, whether that is a suburban school setting, that's predominantly white, or if it's in an urban school setting where the students like, look a lot more like me, right.
And even that just our presentation doesn't really Get to like the full intersection of like how we're showing up in the, the space. The there's so much more nuance that I would love to get into. I wanna zoom back a little bit, right. Because we kind of blitz through, like you had these violent events happen to you and you're like, I need to do something.
And that, like, now you're at this, I will, I'm gonna say enlightened, but like on the journey, way of thinking about healing at the intersection of restorative justice and trauma informed, but that wasn't always where it started. You talked about, you know, mediation being a place that was really a home for you, like helped you, like follow that curiosity.
Like you were able to make a difference there. What was that experience like without this lens?
Joe Brummer (he/him): At the time? I think in some respects I had the lens, but I didn't know. It mm-hmm, . . But there are other pieces of that I think too, that, you know, looking back, you know, when I, when I first started, I volunteered for a local community mediation center in Rhode Island.
And I would go, you know, frequently to court where we had this tiny little room that was right outside the courtroom. You know, you walked outside the courtroom and there was this little conferencing room that was really meant for lawyers to sit with their clients, but we borrowed that room and had a little round table.
And I always sat myself at the door because I wanted, I wanted to be able to get outta the room if I had to, but I'm also a trauma survivor. So I wasn't gonna think about that. I was just gonna do it, not knowing what I was doing. Mm-hmm , but that meant the people that I invited into this space didn't get that opportunity.
That meant I put them at the other side of the table in a six by six room. Where they can't escape. well, there's nothing trauma and informed about that. Like I'm literally locking you into a room. And so I think there's so many things. There's so many questions. There are so many ways I would've carried myself differently.
Had I followed what I call in my book? Universal precautions, right? So in the medical field and you know, every, educator's probably taken a, a training on bloodborne pathogens where we have this conversation. It's funny to have this conversation, you know, as we come out of the end of a pandemic where, you know, we don't know who has a passable disease, like a cold or a flu or, or whatever it may be.
So we wear masks, we wash our hands, we wear gowns surgeons, you know, you know, do all these things to, you know, a, a big face mask. These are all the precautions we take so that we do not take a disease and spread it to more people. So that we don't have a disease and pass it to someone who's vulnerable.
You know, during this whole, you know, we, we did, this is what we all just lived through. Let's take as many precautions as possible. Well, what if we did that exact same thing, except let's not make the premise a disease, let's make it the impacts of trauma. What if there were just some things we did universally, because we know that people who have experienced trauma may be vulnerable to these things like touch eye, contact, loud noises, yelling.
What if we just made some universal standard precautions so that we don't have evocative cues and triggers for lack of a better word of people's nervous systems. So what if we just made it a, a universal precaution not to touch people without asking. Not even shaking their hand without just saying, can I shake your hand so that because for some people who've experienced trauma touch is really uncomfortable.
And if, if not really putting them into fight or flight, well, what if, how, how many times do people put their hand on a student's shoulder? And they mean it very lovingly that doesn't matter to a person who's been experiencing trauma. And so when I look back at me as a mediator, you know, back in 2008, when I first started this work 2007, whatever it may have been, you know, I I'm sure there were a ton of things that I were doing that were just not considered trauma informed, like giving transparency, predictability.
And those are the things that changed in my practice. As I went on as a mediator, I became very transparent in my process. I was always telling my clients in the mediation here is what we're doing here is why we're doing it. Versus in the back of my mind, I've got a strategy I'm following. I'm just following it.
And I'm not telling anybody what I'm doing now. I won't say I don't do that once in a while because it's the best move. Sometimes that is the best move. But to the greatest extent possible, I give people predictability, safety, transparency, all the things that I know a person who's experienced trauma would appreciate because it lets them feel calmer and safer.
Yeah. And, and with safety, safety's important to a brain and a nervous system, and regulation's important to a brain and a nervous system. So what we're really doing is we're helping people stay regulated so they can be their best self.
David (he/him): And I think when people hear that, some might be like, oh my gosh, That's so much work. I have to do this. I have to do that. I have to do that. Like can't I just like be who I am in this space. Can't we all just get along. And in some context where there are established norms and relationships where people know what to expect within a culture in the context. Sure. But that doesn't exist in many places.
Right. So we have to be very, very intentional about constructing these spaces. And, you know, we're specifically talking about schools, which, you know, as you shared, like, you know, a lot of times people think about, you know, trauma happens to kids outside of school and then they come to school and they're safe.
But no, like while that might be the case in some spaces, like schools are places that can be and are incredibly traumatizing for both young people who are coming in and the people who work there like school staff, teachers administrators, right. School leaders. How do we construct this space to be a place where people.
Are able to regulate are able to feel safe. And we're not saying that like, there's never gonna be any kind of conflict or harm in any kind of activation at any time, but like how can we limit that, mitigate some of those things, proactive trauma, informed practice, proactive restorative practices, right.
And then address them when, you know, when harm happens.
Joe Brummer (he/him): Right. And, and we don't want conflict, free spaces. Like we want conflict. Right. All we wanna do is, I mean, conflict is what makes us grow. Right? That's it's these adversities that but, but here's the thing we want conflict to be dealt with positively.
We want stress that can build resilience to be done in the right dose. Right. Think dosing, like if I gave you a, a, a Tylenol right now that probably isn't gonna hurt, you might even cure your headache. If I gave you five Tylenols right now, That's a little more than you should have, so it probably won't kill you, but it's probably not gonna be good for you, right?
If I give you the whole bottle, now we have a problem, right? That's way more than you can take. What if I was doing this daily now let's change the dosage to frequency, repetition. How many repetitions will it take for you get hurt? So to give you just one Tylenol today, is that gonna hurt you now?
What if I did that every single day, cumulatively, that's gonna start trashing your liver, right? I want you to think of, of dosing as how we think of trauma, so that. Oftentimes, if a kid comes to school. Yeah. A little, little bit of this and a little bit of that for stress. Not gonna hurt him, but if day after day after day, this poor kid's got experience walking through a horribly scary neighborhood to get to his school.
Cause I know kids, I know his school here in Connecticut, that at the beginning of school, they ask their teachers and staff to go walk the path kids have to walk to get to school in the morning. Some of those teachers came back. They were terrified. They just had no idea. Kids had to go through that just to get to school.
And so empathy, you talked about. Yeah, that's, that's the empathy piece, but, but those teachers all came back and fully understood now that when a kid comes to school and he's late and he's frazzled. Maybe the kid's not being a bad kid. Maybe he just had a horrible walk to school. And the trauma informed piece of me is gonna be like, wow, wonder what happened to you on your way to school versus, oh, look, John, he's here to disrupt class again.
like, what's our mindset. And so when we have that trauma informed mindset, we can recognize that for many of our kids, the trauma isn't isn't home, it's school. And this is, this is of course being said to you by you know, I'm, I'm 52 years old now, but for all 12 of my well, 13 of my school years, I went to Catholic schools as a young gay growing youth.
And the messaging that I heard was people like me are going to help people like me are scary. People like me will hurt your children, but I knew those things weren't me, but that's the message. that was the trauma. The trauma was to go to school every day and listen to my Bible class. Tell me how horrible of a human I am.
But while secretly all those things they're saying about people, well, they were me. Like I like other boys, like, does that make me a bad kid? But that's the messaging at school? So some of my trauma as a kid, it came right from school. It came from hearing that message day after day after day and not being able to question it, not being able to fight back on it.
And then when it was really uncomfortable and I acted out because of it, teacher, wasn't gonna say this was because a Bible class, wasn't it? No, one's gonna say that. They're gonna be like, oh, Joe's causing trouble again. but we don't, we don't recognize. Sometimes we set up the circumstances for kids to act and then we criticize them for how they act in those circumstances.
And then we don't acknowledge, we created the circumstances. And so that's part of what building a trauma informed restorative school is about. Let's be really mindful and intentional about the circumstances that we set up for a child. So they can be their best self regardless. What's happened to them, regardless what trauma they're experiencing.
We we've set up a space. We could hold space for them. And hopefully one they can learn in.
David (he/him): I like to think about the metaphor of the iceberg when we're talking about like, you know, behaviors that are like displayed that are disruptive, quote unquote troublesome. I think you've used the phrase, like showing that a student or a person is struggl. Right. And then what's going on beneath the surface.
And we like to think about, you know, the root causes of like their walk to school what was whatever was going on at home, but then like there's also the water that is surrounding the iceberg. And like, what are the circumstances in which this kid is, is having to deal with like all of these additional stressors, right?
What is the construction of school that is either conducive to you know, being able to regulate, be able to be safe or is activating those fight flight freeze. You also said faint, which is a new one for me. You know, there, there are so many things that go into that. What are these universal precautions that people who are doing restorative justice work in school think about when it comes to bringing a trauma lens as well, right?
Because people who are listening already probably have an orientation toward restorative justice and restorative practices. And so you can probably like graze over some of those things, but like when it comes to like those universal precautions of trauma, what does that look like in a school setting?
Joe Brummer (he/him): I think it's important for restorative practitioners and educators as well in a school setting to one. The first thing everybody needs to know to be trauma informed in my eyes is an understanding, even if it's basic of what we call state dependent functioning, And that sounds like a fancy old term for, for something, but that's the first first thing we need to understand is that human beings are state dependent.
And what that means is what is the state of your nervous system? Fight flight freeze, faint flock fame. I know that was a lot of Fs. Wasn't it you're like, wait, I didn't know. There was so many. And so, you know, our, our fighter flight or our flight are our sympathetic nervous system. They are the most basic parts of our nervous system and are stress response.
Like we are either ready to fight or run, but along the way, we developed a parasympathetic nervous system. That's actually the other way. So fight or flight mobilizes us where our parasympathetic nervous system, which is freeze and faint actually immobilize us. And so that's those moments where literally you hear people describe in a life or death situation that they couldn't move.
They couldn't scream, they couldn't run. They just, their, the body becomes paralyzed. And at worst it's what the, the nervous system is saying to itself is, look, I can't fight this. I can't outrun this. So I might as well prepare for the pain. And so the body floods with natural hormones and painkillers, that literally will take a person and have them not feel pain at worst.
It'll knock you out pain and so easy, easiest way to not feel pain, play dead, which is your nervous system's having you play dead now for some people. There's, there's the last two, right? The other two Fs. One of them is what we call fame. People in the past have called it's basically people pleasing. It is or caregiving, befriending the threat.
We primarily see this in women and young girls because it's based in a chemical, they just seem to have more of called oxytocin. Oxytocin is both a stress hormone and a, a trust hormone. It's, it's the hormone in our systems that allows us to bond and trust each other. It's also the hormone that's involved in pregnancy lactation and labor it, it is what puts women into labor. It's also what allows women to bond with their infant and child as it's born these levels of oxytocin. And so for some people including men who also have oxytocin in their system, our response is to Fe strategically fan caretaking to protect us. And you'll see this in children in schools.
And so fight flight freeze, faint show up in. Fight looks like fight talking back to your teacher you know, throwing things around, flipping a desk, slamming a locker. These are all forms of fight or literally fighting. Then you have flight behavior in school that might look like running out of class, which it will be in some schools, they call runners, elopers, you know, the kids that just, you know, third grader, it says I'm out here and, and darts out the door.
And sometimes right out the front door to home you know, those can be those behaviors, but it can also be headphones, earbuds, things that say, I'm blocking you out right now. I I'm literally putting my head down and I'm not listening. Those are flight behaviors too. The hovering student, I always like to have educators aware of the hovering student that could be, you know, the one that's attached at your hip, talking a mile a minute, seemingly making up excuses to talk to you.
That could look. That also could be flight behavior, universal precautions are recognizing how we respond to those things and recognizing that any behavior we see could be a stress behavior. And so, including, you know, over people pleasing the, the student that's overly helpful, like that might actually be a stress response.
And so things like, again, not touching anybody without permission, school buildings, no sarcasm, one children in elementary schools and even into middle school are not biologically capable of fully understanding irony or sarcasm. And so using that on a child is not gonna be helpful. You'll probably hurt their feelings or just confuse them at best.
And so staying away from sarcasm yelling there cannot be yelling in a school building. Unless it's absolutely necessary for something. We can't have adults raising their voice to children. And the reason is simple. What if at home a raised voice is followed by the police showing up a raised voice is followed by someone getting hurt.
What if a raised voice means they're going to be heard, you will send that kid right into fight or flight. And so we have to think about what are the things that make sense to change in a school building so that we don't set up the environment where kids are constantly having evocative cues, like even being this conscious about sensory stuff.
So many kids who've been exposed to trauma, have sensory disorders that they're either overly sensitive or they're craving sensory stuff. And so either sensory stuff overwhelms them very easily or they, they crave sensory stuff because they're not getting it. We need to be mindful of how we set up our classrooms.
So that we don't overwhelm the nervous system of a child, too much sensory stuff to take in will overwhelm their brain. And if you're a kid that's been exposed to trauma, that that's a lot to take in. And so really being mindful of the clutter in our classrooms, which I know that sounds like a, a goofy thing, but I I've walked into some classrooms that are like just clutter, like so much stuff that like, how can anybody's brain take it all in?
But if you're a brain that's really overloaded with stress, just all that sensory stuff is more stuff. Your brain's gotta process and it can be too much for people. So, you know, universal precautions are not yelling, not using sarcasm, not touching people without permission, decluttering our classrooms, making sure that our curriculums are actually good for all the kids that were teaching it.
Like a great example of that. We, I just had a school where a, a girl was given a book where the main character had her house burned. That sounds benign enough, right? It's a story about a girl whose house is burning down, except the girl they handed this to just at her house burned down. Well, this is not a good idea.
You're gonna make her relive her trauma. Like why, why, why would you do that? But two, I bet that was just an oversight, but in a trauma informed school, we're thinking about that kind of stuff. What's my curriculum. Is it good for all? My kids is the sensory stuff that I'm doing good for all my kids is fluorescent lighting good for my kids.
And how am I adding rhythm into my class? Because rhythm comes the nervous system. Like how do we start creating environments where people who've been exposed to tough stuff can, can learn. And not only just learn, but thrive, have social engagement feel loved and belong. because just showing up to school and be a part of the class doesn't mean that you show up and belong to the class.
And so I think being trauma informed means making sure kids belong and have a sense of belonging versus just fitting in. Yeah.
David (he/him): That takes so much time. Joe, how are we gonna fit this into all the other things that we've gotta do on top of learning loss on top of this re socialization back into school, these, you hear this all the time.
Joe Brummer (he/him): Yeah. I don't have time for this one. I think the, you know, I'm gonna borrow a line from Ross green where he says the only people talking about time or the people just starting the work. Cause the rest of us that have been doing this work long enough, see that you get all that time back because you're not spending all your time managing you know, unwanted and unhelpful behaviors.
And again, I, I'm a, I stress this over and over. I'm not a guy that believes in behavior management, like managing the kid's behavior is not changing the source and cause of that behavior. And so you know, really being mindful of the idea that you, you can manage a kid's yelling all the time, but if you don't manage why the kid is yelling, did you really do anything?
and so I, I think again, when we actually put these practices in practice, you get the time back, I'm gonna throw one sort of like moral, you know, get on my moral soapbox for a second too, though. What do you mean? You don't have time? What's your priority? Your priority's gotta be kids. And so when you tell me you don't have time that you have these other things to do.
I'm sorry, what I hear. is my priorities as an adult are more important than these priorities of these kids. And that's just not cool. Like I think our priority in this country needs to be children and it's not until we change that that's we are gonna always have the social problems that we have. I was gonna say, I think
a generous reading of these are my priorities is I want to prepare them for the world as it exists.
David (he/him): And you need to be tough out there. You need to be able to navigate X, Y, Z. You need to be able to achieve in the face of all of this adversity in the face of all of this trauma. You just need to push through, get in line X, Y, Z.
Joe Brummer (he/him): Yeah. Except that's not toughening kids up. Doesn't make them handle the world better.
It makes them handle the world worse. And so what we really need to do is start preparing kids for the world. We want. Not for the world we have, because unfortunately the world that you grew up in the world that I grew up in, which is probably longer than you , you know, the, the oldness in me, you know, is not the world.
These kids are growing up in, and it's definitely not the world that they're going to exist and function and succeed in later. It's gonna be a different world. Nobody knew, you know, back in 1979, when my dad got his first radio shack, Tandy computer, I know it's a bunch of gen Xers out there going yess. I remember that.
Yeah. You're like, but there, there was there strike over here. The first big computer everybody had was the radio shack, Tandy color computer. It took these little game cartridges on the side. It was adorable. You know, the internet was comp you serve. And there were probably just a handful of people on it.
Nobody saw back in 1979, what we see today, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, social media, a constant barrage of world news that our brains were never meant to process. You know, the world that we're gonna be in 50 years from now is gonna be very different than the world 50 years ago. And so, while you're busy trying to prepare kids for the world that exists now, will you be able to prepare them for the world?
You don't know will exist 50 years from now when they're the ones playing the game. And so trade off, trying to toughen them up and instead give them a resiliency skills they need. And by the way, we got science for this now. We don't have to make this up and go, well, let's just do what our forefathers did and the people before us and, and what, what our parents did to us.
That's the last thing we should do. What we should be doing is looking at the science, looking at brains, like that's why parenting and discipline for children has to change away from behaviorism, punishments, rewards. All that stuff has to change because in the 1990s, we learned about brain science. We created FMR machines where we could see the brain in real time and learned that.
Yeah, kind of some of the stuff we were doing for kids, not only does it not work, it hurts kids. Literally it's hurting them yet. We keep doing the same old thing exactly. Under that premise, which it's a tough world and we gotta show 'em how tough it is. Yeah. But that doesn't work . Now, if you give them some skills and some flexibility.
Yeah, that that might work, you know, to take a lesson from a Palm tree. I know that sounds goofy, right? Palm trees during a hurricane bend, groove sway, go with the flow. They're the ones that survive, but the ones that get tough and rigid snap, we gotta start raising our kids to be flexible with flexible, nervous systems that can blend their mobilized and immobilized states to be in the sweet spot.
Like our stress systems have a sweet spot. That's like the optimal point of performance. Like if you have no stress, you'll, you'll have no motivation. But if you have just the, if you have too much stress, you, you can't think straight, but if you have just the right, right amount of stress, you'll perform at your best, that's where we need to keep kids performing at their best.
And the only way we can do that is to get adults who know how to do it first.
David (he/him): As an adult who has been working with these frameworks for a while, I'm curious about quote unquote implementation. And I'm gonna ask you this on three levels, one as a human moving through the world you know, in your interactions with, you know, your, your husband, your friend, your community members, like what does this kind of work look like embodied, and then maybe think about a teacher in a classroom and then maybe think about a school leader with their colleagues.
Joe Brummer (he/him): I think in my personal life and, and that one, that one's always the hardest, I think, you know, cuz it's like, you know, sometimes we take our, our, our guard down. You know, I'm doing this work in a school or stuff like I'm, I'm in a mind frame.
I'm in that state where like, I gotta be my best restorative self. Like sometimes I get home, I kick off my shoes and I'm like, Ugh, can just be, you know, I can, I can lay down my guard a little and that's, that's when my restorative stuff can, can creep out of me. And, and I see this, I want, you know, I, I, I would say the majority of my Facebook feed are other restorative practitioners who I know, and I often see them posting stuff and I'm like, Ugh, that's that?
That's just not restorative like that. Like, that's just the whole mindset we're trying to escape. And it creeps into us. Right. It's because it's embedded in lower parts of our brain since we were really young. So being restorative and trauma informed is like a full time job. Like, because all that other stuff is so embedded in us, almost like the same way we talk about implicit bias.
We have implicit bias is about behavior and, and who deserves what. And punishments and rewards and wanting punishment and seeing other people not deserving of things. Cause well, they don't deserve that. They're a terrible person. You know, they're a Trumper, they're, they're a Democrat, they're a, this or that.
Like we fall into our label. So I think in a personal setting and at least very personal for me, it's trying to see my family and friends who might not think like me to not lose sight of their humanity, to not write them off and think of people as disposable because I don't like the way they think or who they voted for.
And, and I'm guilty of this. Like totally. And, and so as I've tried to get deeper into the work, it's me trying to prevent myself from writing people off because I don't because I disagree with their something that they believe and noticing, well, that's their stuff and this is my stuff. And. We can coexist and believe different things.
And that I have a better chance of changing your worldview if I have a relationship with you than if I wrote you off. And so in my personal life, even for me and my husband and, you know, we, it's about having honest conversations. It's about circling up in our own little way. Like sometimes we circle up, like we sit down and we have the tough conversations and, and that's, it's because of this work for me.
I also think, you know, on, on the school level, as you get to that next level up, what does this look like? I think having that restorative trauma informed space for educators is really having educators see behavior as a product of our nervous systems and not necessarily conscious choice. And so you often hear educators and, and even in our personal relationships, we think that people just choose the things they do.
And while that's not inaccurate, it's also not accurate. Right. Your brain is not designed to think before you act. It sounds great on paper. Sounds great for us to say, but the reality is different. Your, your wired to act before you think. I mean, hopefully if I throw a tennis ball at your head, you're just gonna duck.
You're not gonna think, oh, I should duck right now. It'll hit you by then. Like, there's some things that are just reflexive. And for a lot of our responses, our nervous system is playing more of a role in us than we think we are. You don't have control of your life the way you think you do once. You've recognized that for yourself.
Now you gotta start recognizing that for other people that sometimes we do blurt out stuff that we didn't really mean to say, sometimes we say things and it's not what we intended to say. Sometimes we do things. We just couldn't stop ourselves from doing. . And, and so and
David (he/him): that doesn't absolve us of responsibility, right?
Joe Brummer (he/him): No, absolutely not. But I think when, when we are truly being restorative, we're putting on that lens to look at other people's behavior and saying, you know, raw green, right. Kids do well, if they can. Well, what if we said that for adults too? Like, what if we just said, people are doing the best they can in the circumstances they're in, but for people who've been exposed to trauma going into fight or flight or losing access to the higher order, thinking that makes us our best selves.
Sometimes that stuff just disappears. Not because we want it to, but because there are more threats around us in our, because of our history. And so we respond to things as if it's a threat when it isn't. I always tell the people that trauma has changed my life in a way that I see red flags where they don't exist.
And sometimes I don't see the red flags that. So I end up in situations that are not exactly safe, but I didn't see any red flags cuz well, I'm kind of used to like violent, crazy things happening. And so I, I think when we start to understand those pieces about humans, then when we circle up to hold someone accountable, we're not just holding you accountable.
We have grace, we can offer grace, grace. Like I love that word, grace. Like we can offer grace while we do accountability.
David (he/him): Like, can we define that?
Joe Brummer (he/him): I'm holding grace?
David (he/him): Oh no accountability.
Joe Brummer (he/him): Accountability. So I I'm a huge fan of KPR and Carolyn boys Watson's approach to that about accountability having those five dimensions.
So I'm sure a lot of your listeners, you know, if you, if you're all a bunch of restorative practitioners, you probably have seen this, this accountability model that says you gotta own that you cost harm. You gotta know who you harmed in, in what ways you gotta repair that harm. You gotta repay your community and you gotta assure us this isn't gonna happen again.
Five dimensions, none of them have anything to do with inflicting suffering on anyone, cuz that would be well, that would be punishment, which I'm sorry. Punishment for me is defined as the intentional infliction of suffering on someone else. I don't see how that definition is any different than violence.
So I definitely see punishment as a form of violence. And so accountability for me is, is, is owning. It, it, it is those things. It's those dimensions. It's more than just owning your actions. It's repairing them to the best you can. And really, I think that one about assuring people that it won't happen again by you or anyone else.
That's also part of this picture and I, I think we're so programmed in our culture that accountability equals punishment and suffering that when we don't see someone suffer for causing harm. We think they got off, you know, with a hug to which I would say, well, what's wrong with that. you know? And, and so, yeah, for, I, I think for me that those dimensions of accountability are what I've really, I, I kind of, those have really formed what it means to be accountable for me.
Right. And so when you bring that back into a school context where we are asking people to take on those five dimensions, like we're also holding space for grace. And I don't know if you wanna contextualize grace, but you know, people make mistakes, I make mistakes. And when we make mistakes, we do better.
David (he/him): We don't get bogged down. And like, I did a bad thing. I'm a bad person. I guess if I'm a bad person, I'm gonna keep doing these bad things that are harmful to myself, harmful to my community. Right. There is this invitation back into belonging, back into community. In a podcast that I was listening to you on before you talked about this school in India, where you were on this trip with some westernized educators in this school Ru Jainism, and one of your colleagues asked the, the instructor saying like, you know, but what do you do with like the really, really bad kids?
The kids, you quote unquote bad kids, of course. Right. But like the kids who just like, aren't like up for doing this, what was the response?
Joe Brummer (he/him): That's funny, cuz the second is you're describing that I'm like my in my brain, I'm back in that same room with that circle. I sitting on this big mat and. Yeah. So one of my colleagues that was on the tour with us you know, it was this, it was sponsored by the international school of Jane studies.
And it studied based in Jainism, which if your listeners don't know about Jainism it has a very, very strict tenant of nonviolence. And so punishing children would be considered non violence, I mean, would be considered violence and, and therefore it would accumulate karma. And so it's not just about being, you know, not being violent.
It's, it's about not accumulating karma. And so, you know, we pushed a letter like, come on, you know, you lose your temper and send that kid outta class, or, you know, you lose your temperature and give that kid to suspension. Like, how do you handle the really big stuff? And, and this, this, this Indian teacher looked at us and she's like, oh, so for those kids, we bring them to the front of the room.
So everyone in the class can remind them how loved they are. Silence in the room is just like, Whoa. Whoa. And, and much of that silence was just filled with like tears, ESP, like definitely for me, like I thinking back on it that like chokes me up. It's like, there's this moment in time where like, she's like the answer to that question. Isn't to get rid of the kid.
The answer is to bring that kid in and say, wait, you're loved that we can separate out a person from the things they're doing to say, maybe these things you're doing are not even what you want to be doing, but you, you are still good. And if you look at sort of like, you know, circle forward KPR and Carolyn boy Watson, and, and they're sort of like the assumptions, key assumptions about restorative practices, right?
That we, we are all good and wise that, you know, we all have strengths and, and things to offer. Like if, if we can hold those tenants, the way these teachers in India were holding them, what amazed everyone in the room is that this was just a way of life for them. Like they were, it was the reaction of all of us going, oh, oh my God, those Indian teachers were looking at us.
Like we were crazy. Like, what do you like, why would you do something else? Like, they were sort of appalled that we even asked the question and that's the part of it that made me go, oh, wow. Like they're, they're really shocked at us right now. We're all shocked at their answer. And they're shocked. We even asked this question and that was like the big take home for me, this idea that this really can be embedded in your system to look at a child and say, I don't like what you're doing, but I love you.
And that's not the messaging. It's not the language we use with kids. Even if it's not the words we use with kids in schools right now, it's just our attitude and our body language tell a kid I don't like you. Versus wow. You, you, you must have been really stressed out when you hit the other kid. Are you okay?
Yes. I'm gonna hold you accountable for hitting that other kid, but let's start with you. Are you okay? You've just got into a fight. You've just had your entire nervous system engaged. Are you okay? But that's what principle, what educators asking that question. They're not and, oh David, this is the seventh bite you've been in this month.
Right? Right, right. You know, we, we're not, we're not wrapping our arms around these kids and saying, look for you to act like that you must have really been hurting. And so which kid do you wanna see? The hurting kid that just acted out or the bad kid that did something you shouldn't the rule breaker or the kid that struggling.
And unfortunately, even some of the most restorative folks, I know they're not showing up. They're not showing up like those Jane teachers that say we're gonna take that kid to the side of the room and tell you, I love you.
David (he/him): I think that's like a, a good, like, segue into like the like broader scale scale implementation.
Right. Because it is the culture or the system under which we're operating in that doesn't allow us to zoom out and think about that. Right. Because like, oh, end of the class period, I've gotta get through this content or, or else. Right. So it's easier to just send this kid out. Right. Or like, Hey, we only have half an hour to do this circle if we can't get to the, a resolution by the end of this circle.
Right. Like, you know what what's going on. And I, you know, giving grace for people's situations, but you know, we do have to set this long term commitment to. In some instances working outside of like the systems and structures as they exist. Right. Because they're not necessarily conducive to seeing each other as human.
Yeah. Seeing ourselves as human. Right. And school leaders. Right. Have an amazing ability to change those systems. Right. Allocate time for these things. Very intentionally. Right. What we talked earlier about, like, you know, what are the things that you need to proactively do to build those relationships where they exist, create the conditions where these relationships can thrive where people will, you know, have the resources not just like time financial, like yeah.
Do you have a calm corner, but like the interpersonal resources, right? The tools within themselves for regulation to be able to navigate conflict and harm in, in those moments. And it's not a. Hit it and quit it training like, Hey, half, hour, hour, two hours of trauma inform trauma insensitive or restorative justice.
You know, it is, it is a year's long commitment. And I think like it's helpful to frame that when people in schools specifically think about like, oh, it's not just this year of implementation, but you know, people say like, oh, it's a marathon outta spring, marathons have ends 26.2 miles. Right. I've done it.
I've been there. but this work, this work is ongoing. And in the scope of, you know, the last 50 years, the next 50 years before we were got on I think we talked about like this diffusion model of like innovators, early adapters, early majority, late majority lagger. Like where do you think we are in this trajectory of, I think like restorative justice trauma informs and like, maybe even like the intersection of the two.
Joe Brummer (he/him): Now that's such an amazing question, cuz I, I honestly, even though I know that model really well, I talk about it all the time and, and you know, I first learned about that model from Simon. Sinex talk, Ted talk on the power of why, and so I love that, that model, like, but, but I, I guess at this point in time, I'll give us a little more credit than, than I think it's it's, I don't think it's that linear, right?
Mm-hmm , it's not that we're like right now we're at the innovator stage or the early adopter stage. We have all of that going on. Right. And so what, there was an article in the New York post yesterday day before slam again, slamming restorative practice is as you know, the quote unquote Huga. which I hate that term, but I, I hear it.
How often do we hear that term popping up that, you know, we're just gonna give kids hugs in a conversation and that's accountability. Well, actually one, sometimes that is accountability. What was the conversation? There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with that. As long as everybody walking away feels like justice just happened, then, then a, then a hugs.
Awesome. So we have our laggards out there and, and remember in that model, there are two kinds of laggards, right? There are situational and persistent and your persistent ones. Aren't coming board with you. There's the same people that are at the school board meeting, protesting restorative practices, critical race theory and equity work being done in schools.
They're not coming on board with you. They're gonna keep on fighting. And those folks have been around for decades, but at the same time, we do have the early adopters. Then are taking restorative justice and trauma inform to the next level at every turn they can. I, I love those people cuz they show up to awesome conferences and tell us what they're doing and what they're learning.
And then the rest of us get to be the early adopters for what those innovators are teaching us. And then you're always gonna have your early majority, the people that you told this stuff too, and they just did it cuz they're like, yes, this is a good idea. I'm on board. Then there's this group of people.
Who's probably where the majority of us are living right now. Right? Or what we call the, the, the late majority. These are the people that are gonna come on board with you. They're gonna get trauma informed and restorative. They just waiting to see how it rolls. right. That they wanna see how this turns out for everybody else before they invest their time into it.
But, but I think my messaging for all of those folks would be like, you can't outrun this, right? This work is continuing on the path that it is because of this science. This is applied educational neuroscience. And restorative happens to be a really good fit in that neuroscience. You like there's the Nathan Wallace.
Is that his name? Out of, I think he believe is out Australia. Wrote a chapter in mark Thor, Thor Born's last book, getting more out of restorative practices. I dunno if any of you have seen that book, it's a great book. And of course I'm a huge mark th borne fan whose birthday was yesterday. So shout out to mark Thor borne, but also my editor and, and co-author on my book.
You know, we, we are, we are at this stage where more of us are just waiting to take on the work cause we wanna see it's gonna stick. Plus, you know, educators are used to educational fads that come and go, you know, some have stuck around longer than they should like P B I S and you know, whole nother conversation.
Yeah. A whole nother conversation. And so many restorative folks who believe that restorative, that restorative can be blended with P B I S, which I, that that's literally a whole nother podcast that like, that, that thinking has got to go, behaviorism has got to go. If, if we're really gonna truly be trauma informed, we've gotta stop thinking in those terms of carrots and sticks.
But, and, and the idea that you could just, you know, reward kids and they'll behave the way that they want, if that's neither equitable or, or healthy. But we're at that phase, right? We got this late majority who are just waiting to come on board. They see it's a good idea, but they just wanna roll it out before they invest at the same time.
We have our early adopters. We have our innovators who are taking this to new levels all the time, go to any restorative justice conference, any trauma informed schools conference. And you will watch those, you know, innovators giving us new tools at every step. You know, they're the ones publishing the books.
They're the ones doing the conferences. They are the James Moffitt's, Matthew ports, Kay Pranis. These are early adopters and innovators that have been leading the way for us. And then we do have our laggards that are gonna fight us. We've got those laggards that if we listen to them and they're concerns, they'll come on board and be our cheerleaders, big cheerleaders.
If we took the time to implement this work through the same lens that is this work, you gotta listen to people that don't believe in you. You gotta listen to people that don't agree with you, and you gotta take on their point of view for a minute to see if. Maybe their concerns are valid and could be addressed.
Some people think that restorative justice is just letting people off the hook that is a valid concern. You don't want people being left off the hook. I could totally empathize with that concern and I can address it. So if I listen to your concern and let you feel heard about it, will you then come on board when I address it.
Good chance. And so that Def that that model is not. So I don't think we are at any one point in that diffusion model. I think we're at all those points. I think there's just different percentages of us that are, that are coming on board and the place we gotta put our energy is that late majority, the people who want to come on board, but are just waiting it out.
Now we need to pull those people in close and, and get 'em on board faster. Mm, I have no idea how to do that, but I'm working on it.
David (he/him): I mean, and it's not, and it's not all on you, right? There is. Yeah, no, totally. There's lots of work to be shared across. So many of us who, who believe this work to be, to be true in what it, what this world needs.
I I'm hopeful in some ways and some days it's like really hard. I know from listening to other conversations, you've had that we have people in or speaking at least to people at the highest office in the land. Yeah. About, you know, how this work is so important and so vital. And, you know, I think about like, while there are people like you and I like the folks that you've rattled off and so many others, previous guests on this podcast as well, right.
About like, you know, how we're. Pushing this work forward in so many ways in teacher education, this still isn't really, really being taught. And so I, I think like there are two sides to the question and is poorly constructed as far as like an interview goes, but I'm wondering if you could speak to like, you know, the, the large scale application or implementation of this work, maybe at a federal level.
And then like, you know, what you hope for people who are coming into education and people who are teacher educators, teacher people who are teaching training teachers how they can approach this.
Joe Brummer (he/him): I think, you know, first off you're, you're, you're totally right about our highest leadership.
Like we, we have Miguel Cardona who I, I not only only call like one of my heroes in, in this work. I believe in him, he's done this work with me. Like Miguel Cardona is not just our secretary of education, who has some experiences with trauma and former restorative practices. Like I worked with Miguel card for almost five years in his school district when he was the assistant superintendent to implement and, and plan how we were gonna do this work in his four secondary schools.
In Meridan public schools, I learned more about the politics of school systems and how to make change happen at a board of, of EDU. You know, how do you go to the board of education and make change and, and, and how do the politics of all that work, which I have to admit, I'm not really good at politics, but, but you know, Dr.
Card was. And so I learned a ton, but to know that our, you know, we have a secretary of education, who's a former educator, a former classroom teacher, a principal. Assistant superintendent, commissioner of schools who also believes in doing this work, who also knows how to get stuff done. That makes me super, super optimistic.
And, and, and so, you know, I think on the big, the big scale, I can't totally figure out where we're going. I, I think many of our teacher prep programs are taking this on that is happening absolutely happening Eastern Mennonite university, Vermont law school. Like you can go out there and get. Master's degrees in both trauma informed and both and restorative justice.
And now Eastern Mennonite university is gonna combine their trauma informed certificate and master's program with their restorative justice program so that you get one degree in both. And so I think we are going in this direction in teacher prep programs. I know that I, I know only cuz people have told me that my book is being used in a few teacher prep programs to help leaders understand school culture in a, in a new way.
And so I'm, I'm hopeful about all of that stuff. I really am probably more hopeful than I've ever been. At the same time, we're in a position right now where we are just seeing people leave. You know, we know that right after this, since this pandemic over 500,000 educators have left the field. and they're claiming the reason why, and that comes from a, a study by the NEA.
You know, they're, they're saying the reason is because teachers are just undervalued overworked treated poorly expected to become therapists, counselors, moms, chefs snap havens, and be masters of escaping gun violence. Like how much more could we ask of these people and, and not even pay them enough.
And so , you know, it's a double edged sword of, of how we get to go forward. Like, it, it seems like we could make lots of change. We just aren't valuing again, we're not prioritizing this stuff. We should be prioritizing, which are our children. We just, we love to say it that we're prioritizing children, but then I don't see the legislation and the policy that follows.
I am hopeful looking at what I see our current department of education. And I don't wanna make that a Democrat Republican thing cuz it's bipartisan. I feel hopeful about what I see from our current department of education and the work of Miguel Cardona. Not only because I know him as a friend, but, but, but as, as an educator, I, I know, I mean, I've had many conversations with him about trauma, about restorative practices, about how we help kids about equity.
I, I believe this guy can do something amazing for us if, if we support him. And so whether you're a Democrat or Republican, an independent whatever party you might belong to, we have an a, if you work in education, you have an educator leading us. Like I don't know how we could ask for more like really, and, and I'm mean suppose we could ask for more like.
Please pay teachers so there's that the start? Yeah. Yeah. There's that. But you know, at, at the end of the day , I feel hopeful. I really do. And, and I guess for, for many of us in this field, and, and I know many practitioners who I've talked to can, can relate to this statement. It's like, for some of us, we couldn't lead this field if we wanted to.
Right. I always joke to myself and I'm gonna say, I'm just gonna go a job at a Walmart. Like, and, and I don't know, gather the shopping carts from the parking lot and, you know, just something where I don't have to think too much. But I, we all know it. I couldn't do that if I wanted to. And neither could so many people that are doing this work, we couldn't walk away from this work.
If we tried to cuz there's this compulsive feeling like this is what we're supposed to be doing, so we're doing it. And you know, I hope that we end up with more people who have that compulsion.
David (he/him): I want to make sure that we have time for you to answer all the questions that everybody answers when they come on at the end of the pod. But I wanna make sure that we plug your book one more time and we'll do it again. At the end building trauma, informed restorative, building a trauma informed restorative school get it where all books are sold, but as always the link to the bookshop where you can buy it from a local independent bookstore is what will be linked in, in the show notes.
We've already asked you to share your definition of restorative justice or, the way that you conceptualize it. So I'm gonna ask you for an oh shit moment in doing this work a moment where you messed up or you made a decision to like, Ooh, I wish I had that back. And then what did you learn from it?
Joe Brummer (he/him): Oh, geez. There's been so many of those. I, I think early on in this work, I I'll tell you. I, I I'll tell you my one, my one moment that, that I still, I, I still think about this moment often that, that I was very early on in this work and I had a principal of a school basically give me free Roma for school.
She's like, do whatever you need to do. I believe in this work, just do what you gotta do. And I'd been asked to circle up this group of, of fourth grade girls that had been, you know, at each other, you know, for a while and, and find out what they were. It was either fourth or fifth grade. And, you know, I had to walk down to that classroom and grab those girls and bring 'em to a room where we can circle 'em all up.
And, and I was with another, you know, person who was gonna co co-lead the circle with me, cuz I very often have people with me that are training in, in the work. And so I had somebody training in the work with me and I, I was like, and we're walking down the hallway and I see this really tall. He's not even a principal.
He was an intern to be an administrator. And he had this little like second or third grade boy, who's literally like a quarter of the size of him. And he's just, you know, doing this with the finger pointing, just towering over this child and the kids, you know, crying. And, and he, he looked and as I walked by, I heard him say, you look at your teacher when you apologize.
And in that second, all I wanted to do was pull that kid away from those adults, cuz nothing about that was anything short and abusive power. He wasn't learning anything. They were just trying to get him to be a com obedient, compliant, little kid and shaming him all along. And I wanted nothing more than a, than to interrupt that.
And I did not. I kept walking and to this day it has been. God 12 plus years since that happened. And I probably think about that at least once a week. Like why did I, but it's also shaped how I walk forward with this work. And so a lot of educators and principals who worked with me and superintendents know, I, I'm not gonna hold back on people.
Now, if you are doing stuff that I think is hurting kids, I'm gonna bring it to your attention. I'm willing to be wrong about what I'm pointing out, but I'm gonna point it out. And the reason I think I drive that way is because I remember that little kid's face. I remember how sad and defeated he looked and no little child should look that way.
That's not learning. That's just abuse. And, and, you know, you're talking to a child to be survivor and I don't, I just don't think we need to do that to children to make them better humans. In fact, I think that kind of stuff makes them worse. So my, I think that's my big moment. I probably have about 50 more but that is definitely the one that, that I, I, I'm not lying at all when I, when I say, I think of that little kid about once a week or so, that's probably, it's usually cuz I'm off doing the work and I get tested of like, all right, do I say something or do I shut up?
And I always think, well, there's that one time Joe, where you didn't say something and you should have. And so that, that I think was a, that was like a pivotal moment for like how I do the work. Yeah. You know, just like, and, and if I literally, if I could time travel back and just like intervene in that moment to be like you adult, you need to go get regulated and step away from the kid.
And little kid, you need just a hug, whatever you did did not warrant that treatment. And, and what could a third grader possibly do that would warrant that kind of like dehumanizing shaming nonsense. So, yeah. All right. I'll get off that super box.
David (he/him): thank you for sharing that. And I think it's just a, a reminder for folks like, even in a system, even in a space where you don't have all the levers of power and control, like you get to make those like moment by moment decisions that are more human, right?
Forget trauma informed, forget, restorative and forget all this. Like what is the thing that is affirming somebody's community this moment? It doesn't require big fancy terms like trauma responsive, which, you know, We all want you to embrace, right? But you have the ability to make massive change in just those moments.
This question is a little bit maybe equally as difficult, but in a different way, you get to sit in circle with four people that are alive. Who are they? And what is the one question you ask about circle
Joe Brummer (he/him): So I am twice the survivor of violent crime in both of those incidents, the people that were involved were not caught.
And so there, there will be no justice because there can't be, there can't be accountability because we don't even know who this people are. And, and so I've literally as I do this work and I talk about being the, the victim of two violent hate crimes in the very first hate crime, which happened in 19 89, 19 90.
I still wonder about that cuz literally my memory of those things is pretty trash . So but I looked back and, and, and the memory of the event is pretty clear at least that one. And during that event I had, I had cash on me. I had lots of cash on me. It was not touched. I had the keys to a 1986 Pontiac Firebird, which at the time was only a few years old.
Let's keep in mind cuz you know, I was I'm old. But yet they took a ring off my finger. And so I've always had this fantasy that, that, that someday someone's gonna come back to me as I'm doing this work and say, do you recognize this ring? And so I think if I was gonna circle up people, it would be those people.
It would be the people that took the ring. It would be the people that, you know, 10 years after that bashed me again. I, I just wanna sit down and, and I think my question for all of them would be tell me a time you got hurt.
Cause then I could at least humanize them in my head.
And as you can tell, I actually have sort of like invested some thought into what that conversation would sound like and look like. And, you know, I never spent too much time on it cause it's probably not healthy, but once in a blue moon, I've, I've fantasized. I'm like, what if I got to sit down with them all and just circle up, pass this talking piece, like I've done with so many times for other people and I've watched other people do it.
Wouldn't it be amazing if, if I had that opportunity, what if somebody just showed up and, and said, Joe, do you recognize this ring? Because I, I know what my ring looked like. I would, I would know. And, and if you have it, there's only one way you got it. And so you took it from my hand. And so there's the, I think that would be my four people.
I don't know if that's what other people's answers are. I'm sure they pick celebrities and family members. And, but for me, I think it would be, I think it would be the people that hurt me.
David (he/him): Thank you for sharing that. What's one thing, affirmation.
You want everyone listening to
Joe Brummer (he/him): wow. That's a really hard question. I mean, that's just, wow. I really do think. It sounds like such a cheesy little thing to say to people, but everybody really is doing the best they can in the moment they're in with the skills and tools they have with the nervous system they've they've been given.
And so sometimes I think grace, grace is everything. Just giving people grace, no matter who they are, what they've done, there's, there's good in everyone, even when it's so hard to see. And so I, I think that would be, it everybody's really doing the best they can, even when it doesn't look like that, you'd be surprised when people have been through a lot, the best they can doesn't look like much, but for some people it's legit the best they could give you.
And so I wish we could see that more often in people.
David (he/him): I just want to slide in there, grace for yourself as well.
Joe Brummer (he/him): That too I'm yeah. I'm, I'm horrible at offering that to myself. working on that. Definitely working on that. Beautiful.
David (he/him): Who's one person that I should have on this podcast and bonus points. If you can help me get them on.
Joe Brummer (he/him): I could list a ton. But, but who I'll save right now? Bruce Perry, I can't help you get Bruce Perry on the podcast, but I, I, or I don't think I could. But Bruce Perry is probably my top choice. I love listening to Bruce Perry talk, but also even though I, I think has been really amazing and, and not necessarily falling into like the restorative justice category or the trauma informed category, but someone who speaks out against punishment in ways I've never seen anyone do is Stacy Patton.
Like, I'm just a, like a bait. I'm a big doctor, Stacy Patton fan. And if you don't know who that is, she wrote a book called spare the kids, which really the, the subline of that book is why whooping whooping children won't save black. And so she really wrote this book for black parents to really understand the history of how mm-hmm black parenting got to be so harsh.
Yeah. And, but, but she really calls out white European, just the cruelty and history of white European parenting. I mean, there was a time like in the middle ages where, where children were put in stockades for public ridicule for talking back to their parents, like white parenting has created child, her premise in her book, which I, I just think is powerful is that white parenting paved the way to have children who lacked empathy as adults who could easily buy and sell other human beings and dehumanize others.
And. That black parents had to take on this harsh style of parenting that they learned from white European settlers and, and pur, you know, Puritans, like she just spells out the history and the way she does it, it's really just, it's just the facts. Like you can't really like, she presents the facts and the facts are pretty hard to argue with.
And she does it with a sense of humor. That is interesting. I think she has an amazing sense of humor, but, but just something about the way she speaks to both abusive parenting from white parents and black parents, and she's not pointing a finger and blaming anybody, she says, this is the facts and we could change it, but it still exists today.
We, you know, she points it out in her book. We celebrate when we see parents beating their children, like, yeah, that could deserve day, you know, that'll teach 'em blah, blah. When none of that stuff is true. You know, hitting your children is, is, is like end of the story, bad for kids. It's like argu. Like I, at this point, trying to argue in favor of hitting a child is like flat earth theory.
It's probably not trauma informed. And so in order to be truly trauma informed, you need restorative justice, but in order to be truly restorative, you need trauma informed. Like these two things can't be separate anymore. And I don't know how to, I don't know who needs to hear that message loud enough, but that, that is definitely the message that I want people to hear.
David (he/him): Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. So I look forward to getting connected with some of the latter people that you mentioned and then we will aspirationally reach for some of the, the, the first two . And just so you can say in your own words, where, and how can people support you and your work in the ways that you wanna be support.
Joe Brummer (he/him): The, you can always find me at my website, which is just my name, Joe bromer.com. If, if you do get a chance to read my book, I always tell people to buy it from a local independent bookstore. An L G B T owned or black owned business would be my favorite. If you do buy it from those folks, just go sneak over to Amazon and write a nice review, because that is kind of how books sell in this world is that Amazon does make an impact on what sells and what doesn't sell.
And so having people write reviews on my book is, is really helpful. And, and so far I feel blessed that the reviews mostly out there exceptions of one or two have been really, really positive. And so, yeah, that's one way to support it. Yeah, buy that book and, and if you've already read the book and you love it, buy a copy for an educator, you know,
David (he/him): Beautiful,
Links to do all of that, both your website and purchase that book in the show notes.
Joe, thank you so much for spending your afternoon with us on this restorative justice life for everyone else listening, we'll be back with another conversation with someone living this restorative justice life next week until then take care.