This Restorative Justice Life

98. Practicing Restorative Justice as an Educator, and Reframing What “Discipline” Means w/ Robin McNair

October 06, 2022 David Ryan Castro-Harris
This Restorative Justice Life
98. Practicing Restorative Justice as an Educator, and Reframing What “Discipline” Means w/ Robin McNair
Show Notes Transcript

Professional educator of 30 years, Ms. McNair serves as the Restorative Approaches Coordinator one of the largest school districts in Maryland. She has training in Peacemaking Circles, Conflict Circles, and Restorative Justice in Education. She is the owner of The Restorative Classroom, LLC, which provides services such as Restorative Justice in Education training, building staff relationships, addressing staff harm in educational environments, and creating just and equitable learning environments. She also offers technical support to schools implementing restorative practices. Ms. McNair served on her state commission for The School to Prison Pipeline and Restorative Practices, which pushed and helped pass state legislation for schools to adopt Restorative Approaches as a way to build relationships and keep youth in school. Ms. McNair has served on several panels focusing on Stopping Girls of Color Pushout and Eradicating the School to Prison Pipeline. Ms. Mc

In this episode, Robin talks about her experience being a restorative justice practitioner along with being an educator in the current education system. She speaks on what to expect and what to embody in your role as an educator.

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David (he/him): Robin. Welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are you? 

Robin (she/her): Hmm. I am the descendant of people from Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and Ghana who were stolen and enslaved and brought to this country. 

David (he/him): Who are you? 

Robin (she/her): I am a descendant of author and Alice McNair, the daughter of Robert and Montrose McNair, and the sister of Sheila Jeanie and Robert Junior. McNair

David (he/him): Who are you?

Robin (she/her): I am the mother of McNair and a friend to a multiple of people who are devoted to loving me on a daily basis. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. who are you? 

Robin (she/her): I am a lover of books, a lover of music, a lover of the theater, and every other creative arts you can think of. 

David (he/him): Who are you? 

Robin (she/her): I am a healer. I'm a healer of hearts that have experienced harm and have the desire to be healed.

Who are you? I am unapologetically a magical black woman. 

David (he/him): Finally, for now, who are you? 

Robin (she/her): I am a restorative educator. 

David (he/him): Beautiful. Well, Robin, thank you so much for being here. We'll be back with the rest of our conversation right after this. Robin, again, thank you so much for being here.

You know, we've been in, you know, social relationship through Instagram and the internet over the last couple years. and then we got to meet this summer, at the N A C RJ Conference in Chicago. And it was finally time like, Yo, yo, you, you coming to do this? so I'm very glad that you're here, . it's always good to start with checking in, so to the fullest extent that you want to answer the question, How are you, 

Robin (she/her): Hobw am I? You know, I am human.

In every possible way. So I am experiencing so many different emotions at this moment. I am happy, I am excited. I am also anxious about what this school year brings, but I'm also hopeful because I know that with this work it can bring good things. 

David (he/him): Yeah. Being a restorative educator at the beginning of a school year where, you know, we continue to say over the last.

Three years, really like school year, unlike any other, right? We're still in the middle of a pandemic. Right. And people are still feeling the repercussions, from being outside of school, for school buildings for so long. And when we're thinking about doing this work long term, you know, restorative justice has a lot to do with the way that, we navigate relationships in schools, the way that we are with students, the way that we are with colleagues.

But, you know, you've been doing work that is restorative in nature even before you knew the word restorative justice. So, in your own word, how did this journey get started 

Robin (she/her): for you? Mm. Wow. Where it started when I was a young girl. I'm just joking. . So, when I first started teaching, which was in the early nineties, of course, you know, you go into the classroom and you have this expectation of what education is supposed to look like, and that is exactly how I went in.

But my perspective was based on how my education, looked when I was in school as a young person. Mm-hmm. . So I took those beliefs and attitudes into the classroom. While I had a great rapport with young people, I also had that, you know, that punitive, that discipline, when you're not complying a type of mindset.

So, as I continued to go through my educational journey, we had, no child left behind, the practice of zero tolerance policies, and that was ingrained within me, as I. Continued, you know, you know, as an educator mm-hmm. in the classroom, and I fell right in line with those norms where it became normal to put a young person out of school.

Well, it became normal to, punish a young person just for being a young person. And when the federal guidelines started to shift to say, you know, we can't put our young people out of school because they need to be in school, specifically our black children, specifically our brown children, were being disproportionately pushed out of school and onto that track to prison.

And me being a person who had become, you know, part of that, unfortunate phenomenon started speaking up. So what are we gonna do as an educator? You know, you know, very, big in the union. I spoke for the teachers. So of course I stood up and I started saying, What are we gonna do as teachers when our young people come in and they don't, don't wanna learn, and they're doing this?

And their displaying behaviors at the time that I felt were misbehaviors. Mm-hmm. . So the answer to that was, Well Robin, we'll just let you be, the discipline chair and have you go through and look through the student code of conduct and. Help us decide what to do. 

David (he/him): Yeah.

Robin (she/her): So I took on that assignment, you know, no assignment is too big for me.

So I took on that assignment. I had some wonderful people to join me on that committee. And the first thing I saw in our student code was restorative practices. And I asked around, I asked around the table, you know, have anybody heard of this? What is this? And it was important for me to ask that question because it was listed under a level one intervention, which is the intervention that a teacher would take.

David (he/him): Yeah.

Robin (she/her): In her, in her, his classroom, or in their classroom. And no one around the table had really heard about it. So I started digging and doing some research, and I was chosen to go to a discipline summit in Washington, DC And lo and behold, there was a breakout session on restorative practices. And from there, David, I took off, I said, This is what we need.

I was tr I found every training in the book I could take. but the, the, yeah. And, and that, that was my journey on, you know, finding this work. 

David (he/him): Yeah. Lots of places to go. one, I I just wanna like highlight restorative justice. restorative practices, have been in school policies and handbooks for years, right?

Yes. Quote unquote, implementing this work is not about policy. , right. Policies only as cuz the people who uphold these policies. And if people don't even like, know what one that these policies exist. Two, like what they mean three, like how to go about doing them like. The problem doesn't get solved. Like, yay, we wrote this handbook.

I can link you, you know, Chicago, Denver, Oakland, Minneapolis, Baltimore is right, like Handbook for Restorative Justice practices. and you know, policy is only as good as like the people who at pulled it in. So like, what is the capacity building people are doing? Right? What is the, training that people are doing?

What is the space for practice that people have? where is the mentorship and space holding to process, like this way of being? we don't get that in teacher education training. Right? You know? That's true. You didn't get it in the nineties. Like it's still not happening now. we're gonna talk a little bit more about that as we continue the conversation, but you joked about going back to when you were a little girl, but like, I I maybe not like when you were a little girl, but like these inklings of finding a different way, like I'm sure like existed for you before.

 before like that moment, right? Of like, Oh yeah, what is this thing? Like what is the way that we can like be, I don't know if you would in your mind, to like less punitive, but like, there, there was something before that moment, I'm sure, right? 

Robin (she/her): Yes. Yeah. Yes it was. Yes. I can vividly remember teaching fifth grade.

Mm-hmm. and I would have, you know, Socratic circles where we would talk about, you know, a book that we have read mm-hmm. . But there were times where, 

David (he/him): Sorry, can you break down the Socratic circle?

Robin (she/her): Oh, so a, a Socratic circle is when you are in a circle with others and you may pose a question mm-hmm. and you will allow the people in the circle to give their thoughts or opinions.

What the question is about. And the goal is to get them to critically think about the topic that you're discussing, to try to come to a conclusion around the why mm-hmm. of this particular event. Yeah. So it's just a space where, you sit and think and you use critical thinking skills through, discussion, through questioning.

David (he/him): Yeah. Gotcha. So you were sitting in that space with your fifth graders? 

Robin (she/her): Yes. And there were times where the conversation would move away from the content because young people would start relating what we've read to their lives. Mm-hmm. . And it became very personal and I decided I'm gonna listen. I'm gonna encourage, I'm gonna make sure the students are heard.

I allowed my students to be individual in the classroom as much as they, as much as I was able to. So I was always a listener. In the classroom. I was always a educator who allowed students to be an individual in the classroom. So I was being restorative before it became a term that was placed in policies.

David (he/him): Where did you see that modeled for you? 

Robin (she/her): Wow.

I think college, believe it or not, I think, I think it was college, because when I was growing up, I didn't have that space. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): I didn't have that space to express, to learn social emotional skills, to understand what I was feeling when I was upset. So in college, however, I had a biology teacher who had conversations with us and allowed us to discuss our content, but to also discuss how we felt about the content and how we felt about things that were going on in society.

David (he/him): Yeah. 

Robin (she/her): And how Yeah. And how it impacted us. And believe it or not, David, from that class, I decided I'm gonna become a teacher. Cuz at first I was in social work. Gotcha. And I changed my major to education. Yeah. 

David (he/him): What ab, what was it about that experience? Like, you know, education is a, is a way for me to, you know, positively impact the world?

Robin (she/her): Well, if I'm really being honest, Yeah. Because I am a theater person, I said, you know what, I think I'm funny and I like being a center of attention, so I'll be a teacher. But it was really about me wanting to create a space for young people the way I wanted educators to create a space for my. And at the time I did have a young son who was going to public schools.

David (he/him): Yeah. And you know, you know, both things can be true. Right? we, we can, both of those things can be true. Right. Creating that space for not only your son, but for, for all kids. Right. that's really relevant for me. Like right now I have a five month old who will eventually like, be in schools. But, doing, doing this work is about building capacity for others to, to be this way.

Not just in classrooms, but in relationship with others as we navigate the world. But also like that, that like the performance is real, like wanting, wanting that. But what you have been sharing is about sharing the spotlight, right. Allowing others to be able to shine, be the individuals. and you, and you did that, even before, like the words restorative justice were things that you learned when the.

Restorative justice workshop at that conference hit. Like, what was it about that that was like, so resonant for you that was like, I'm on fire. I'm gonna learn everything that I can about this now? 

Robin (she/her): It took me back to when I first started teaching fifth grade. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And it also opened my eyes to how much of what we were doing to young people were contributing to the increase in our young people moving into the juvenile justice system.

it also allowed me to reflect on how I felt as a student where I didn't feel listened to. I didn't feel like I belonged often in school. And I never wanted a child to feel that way when I came into education and I realized, Robin, you're doing the very thing that you didn't want to do to children.

David (he/him): Yeah. 

Robin (she/her): And that shifted my thinking and I said, This is what we need, you know, in my school district. to help our young people to stay in school, to be heard, to have a voice. 

David (he/him): Yeah. I'm, I'm thinking, you wrote an article for NEA a while ago, in 2020, talking about like the need for restorative justice practices, like as an effort to like break the school to prison pipeline, specifically for black and brown children.

But, you know, so much of what you're talking about is not just about like punish, like alternatives to punishment. It's like that sense of belonging and like, I guess like people who listen to this podcast, hopefully by this point understand that, you know, when we're talking about restorative justice, yes, it is like responses to harm and conflict that are, you know, bringing the people who have been impacted by the situation together and like figuring out a way to meet the needs and make things as right, as right as possible.

but in order to have like a relationship to restore back to you and to prevent harm moving forward, there is proactive work to build and strengthen relationships. Yes. that, that is so needed. I'm thinking a lot about, you know, those circles that you talked about that like you were knowing like.

David (he/him): People can sit in a circle and talk and not have it be like a peace circle, a peacemaking circle, or talking circle in a formal way. Right? But like, our people and people across the world have, have known circles to be these ways where communities can be built. in addition to other things, as you've continued to develop your, restorative justice practice, as you've learned over the last, you know, few years, what are some key things that like you've been able to bring into your classroom practices while you were still there and then, you know, you're not in classrooms anymore, 

From what you learned about restorative justice, both proactive building and strengthening relationships and repairing relationships, like what did you bring into the classroom with you?

Robin (she/her): Okay. Yes. So what I realized is you really cannot restore something that has not been built. So in my classroom, what I brought into circles was a space where young people would feel like they are part of a community, part of a family. I remember my first time doing circles and I was so focused on me being the teacher mm-hmm.

that I was not restorative in that space. So 

David (he/him): what did that look like? 

Robin (she/her): Oh, a student would talk outta turn, be quiet, he's talking, or you know, they would laugh out loud, Shh. They can't hear. , I was so focused on maintaining that control.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): Eventually it got to the space where, cuz remember I said I was going to all the trainings I could find.

Yeah. I went to a training that truly showed me what a non-hierarchical space looks like.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): Where everyone is on that same level where every voice weighs the same. And what I brought into the circle once I started to see the transformation was a non-hierarchical space where my students could even refer to me as Robin.

many adults, specifically educators don't like that. But I brought that and I did have some students who, you know, struggle with it. But there were some that did say Miss Robin, while others continued to call me Miss McNair, in that circle I brought activities where, Students were able to see someone who shared the same, interest and likes, and who shared the same struggles as them.

Robin (she/her): I brought into that space a nonjudgment container where students could empty their deepest thoughts, their deepest struggles, those heavy things they carry in their book bag and trust that it would not leave that space. Yeah. And that is something that, that I truly value whenever I sit in circles with young people.

And when I sit in circles with adults, I, I, for myself, I look for opportunities to be in circle as a participant. Mm-hmm. so I can remember what it feels like to truly be heard so I can continue to offer that. Yeah. I sit in, the space as a circle, keeper. 

David (he/him): I'm sure there are people who, are listening who are like, Oh yeah.

Like, that's definitely within my practice. I've done similar things in my classrooms. this podcast is not a circle training. Right. But I'm curious for those who might not be familiar with like how I bring this work into the classroom. You talked about some like pretty advanced things, right? Because like what doing this work doesn't mean is like, All right, everybody circle up and we're just gonna be this way.

Robin (she/her): Yes. Right? 

David (he/him): Like, what does it take to like introduce this framework to your students? Because like, you're not saying like, Hey, circle up. Tell me your deepest, darkest secret. 

Robin (she/her): Yeah. You know? So it starts from the moment they walk into my classroom. Mm-hmm. , not even into my classroom. Really down the hallway.

I make it a point to speak to them, to look at them in their eyes, let them know I'm happy you're here, David. Oftentimes we have our young people who may arrive to school late, may come to class late for whatever reason. Instead of me saying, Why are you late? You know you're late. You better be on time.

I'm like, You know what? I am so glad you're here because our community is not complete until you get here. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm.

Robin (she/her): And that made them feel so much, it made them feel like they are part of the community. One of the, the things I do in the class as well as I,speak with them about how do we wanna be together in this space?

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): Because we are a community and you're so right. Before we get into sitting in a circle, we must learn how to be in right relationship with others. 

David (he/him): Yeah.

Robin (she/her): Know what do I need from you in order for me to be my best self with you? And when I'm not my best, best self trust that you'll help me to get there.

Or you'll understand that I'm not operating in my best self. And then ask me what do I need being in the right relationship. understanding that we all have values that are universal, but some of our values may still differ and I need to honor that. How do I need to be with you in this space? So I know that regardless of what happens, I belong here.

This is my community, and I can come back and feel safe if I have to go away for a minute. Yeah. So those things have to be established even before you, Well, not even those things have to be established, but you have to believe in those, those values and that philosophy before you can even sit in a authentic space, in which we called a circle.

So I made sure that I did that for my students and it just became part of who I am. It is part of who I am. When I left the school building, I didn't leave my restorative hat in my classroom. I brought my restorative, hat with me. and it helped to transform my classroom, but also my home as well.

David (he/him): Yeah. I wanna talk about your home in a second, right? Cuz this is this restorative justice life, not just this restorative justice teacher, this restorative justice classroom. But when I think about, what you talked about building the container for like this process to even be able, like the process of sitting in circle or.

A repair harm process to even take place. It is like the person that you are moving through the world, building the space, right? Like the welcoming and acknowledgement of students as like, welcome members of the community, inviting them to do the same thing, inviting them to share right, what they need, to be quote unquote successful.

However you all choose to define that, in, in your community while you're together. And this isn't necessarily a universal school thing. ideally like it, it, it could be. But when you're talking about like. Individual classrooms. That's individual relationships with both, students who may, may or may not be in classes with each other all the time.

With, you as a teacher who maybe has them for one period a day, right? Like those are unique things. Like, so of course there's school policy. We've already established that like, you know, school policy doesn't mean anything. like nobody knows about it or follows it or upholds it or like, has the capacity to do it.

So like, having these conversations explicitly, is, is really important. You know, we're recording this at the beginning of the school year and this is gonna come out in like the first month or two of the school year, depending on our scheduling and depending on where some people are geographically, cuz some people have been in school for weeks now.

but, oftentimes it's really easy to have this as, you know, the first day, week, like setting the tone for your classroom. Just relationship building. But you know, sometimes one people access this podcast at all different times of the year. Yes. That we have people who don't listen every week. I don't think that there's ever like a bad time to start doing this.

David (he/him): Right. You were introduced to this framework and like in your role right now, you're introducing these frameworks to folks, in the middle of the school year. How do you encourage people, to start making these changes in context that were, already hierarchical, teacher-centric, in the middle of, in the middle of the school year?

Robin (she/her): Yeah. So when I was introduced to, restorative justice in schools, it was in the middle of a school year.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): so this is a perfect question for me. I had to go into my classroom and tell students I've been doing education wrong. Hmm. And they're looking like, what? And I told them, I said, You know what?

We're gonna do something called respect agreements, because I need to know how I need to be for you as a teacher so you can feel safe in my classroom. And it's as simple as that. Just really doing a lot of self reflecting. looking at, you know, when you talk about education, you can take your grades.

Let's just take the grades from first quarter or even from a month ago. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm.

Robin (she/her): How, how have the grades looked, you know, And then think about, well, what can I do to help students feel safe enough to ask me for help? 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): ask me for support. it really takes that self-reflection. And then admitting when you have done wrong by others.

You know, I'm sorry that I didn't take the time to speak to you each individually, so, This can happen, whether it's at the beginning of the school year, the middle of the school year, or even in May when you have new young people who may be coming in towards the end of the school year. But it's really about, okay, what can I do different?

And how can I let young people know that this is why I am being different? Yeah. And just ex give them the why. When you give young people the why, then you don't have to worry about them saying, why they being fake? You think it's gonna change Now? Having that honest conversation with what you were doing that just was not working, and how can we work together to make sure we have shared power in this classroom, and to make sure that you feel like this space is relevant for you to be.

David (he/him): Yeah. I imagine there are teachers here who are listening, educators who are listening, maybe people in other roles who, like traditionally like stand in a hierarchical power structure who say like, I can't be that vulnerable with the people that I'm charged with leading. I can't do this. And I think like, specifically from like a young teacher perspective, right?

Like, I need to be respected. I need to differentiate between me and them. Right? how do you do that? Because like, you know, you did this like midway through your teaching career, you're very far removed from like being mistaken from, for a student or, or a peer, or like by a student, by your colleagues, right? Or 

Robin (she/her): Dave, you don't think I look young.

David (he/him): Backtrack back. Back pedal. Just knowing the years that you have in education, saying that you started in the early nineties makes me think that.

Robin (she/her): Yeah. Oh. so one of the things I learned doing this work is that respect is not something that needs to be earned. Respect for being a human being, respect for being, a person who is to be honored as a human being is not something that you earn. Yes. You know, you earn respect as you know, in your role that you may play, you earn respect, as far as the title you may hold, but as just being human.

Everyone is entitled to being respected. Whether they were born yesterday or whether they were born 50 something years ago. So for a young teacher going into the classroom, releasing that notion of, I'm the one in charge. I have to maintain control, because that's what they tell us. You know, you need to make sure you get control at the beginning of the school year, and you need to have good classroom management.

Well, I've learned that classroom management is really not about me managing children. It's really about children managing themselves and having that desire to manage themselves in a way that is going, you know, to be desirable for the teacher. And where does that come from? That comes from the teacher letting them know this is a space in which you belong.

We're gonna have consistency around our po, around our, our procedures, around our routines, and. This is gonna be a space in which we are going to be with one another, where all of us can operate in a place of respect and dignity. So when you're going to the classroom, smile, and I know many of us are wearing mask, but when you smile, your eyes smile along with you.

Smile at the students, Call the students by their name, and if you can't pronounce their name, ask them how to pronounce it. And if it is a challenge let them know. You know, I may need you to help me pronounce your name until I get it right. Are you able to help me do that? Names are very important for students.

Look at your young people. Stop what you're doing. Look at your young people when there's asking you a question, expressing themselves. Just those small things. Let students know that you care. Yeah. And then students will let you know that they care as well, because we're all hardwired for connection and they spend a lot of time with you in that school building.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): They want to connect with you even though they may show you or may show you something that looks different than them wanting to connect with you. They do. They need that relationship because our, our, our bodies desire that. Our minds, our hearts desire that, and for over two years, we haven't gotten that, and many of us, unfortunately, have been in situations where the connection has not been pleasant for them.

So they're coming into the school building thinking they're gonna receive the same thing. We have to show them something different. We have to show them what real love feels like. and you can do that without being a relationship person. Everyone knows how to be kind. Everyone knows how to be nice and everyone is real at some point in time.

Just be all three at the same time. 

David (he/him): I think a lot about you talking about, I, I mean, we've talked about, right? Teachers aren't trained to do this. Like the, the framework is one classroom management. But I, I think all the time about, an elementary gym teacher who was, a male about your age. Right. And the thing that he said to me was that, you know, I was taught like to not build relationships with students in this way, specifically like young women because of like the way that like, that has been abused.

And like, I, I think I have, I do have sympathy for that, because like that's the way that you've been taught, That's the way that you've been socialized, but also like, Just don't be creepy . Right. Like you can be, you can have a relationship with people in like built on mutual respect, built on kindness, and not ask like invasive questions about like their, their personal lives.

Right? Right. there, there are ways that you can like ask about, you know, and, you know, we had this conversation and you know, as I was working coaching him, like one of the things that I observed in, a class that I was observing him, teacher was like, you know, hey, you remembered that that student had like a gymnastics competition that we can, and like you asked her about it, like, that's great, Right?

That was a, like a moment of like positive connection between like you and her that like, don't think that she was creeped out by Right. like that's just like a good, like relationship building moment between humans. Like this person remembered something that was going on in my life that was important and like checked in on that.

I, I was, I'm remembering working with another teacher. He was a math teacher, elementary math teacher, talking about, you know, the way that he has started to reframe the way that he works in his classroom is that like so many of his students, like one, have anxiety around math. but, but, and so like in their interactions with him, it's often like, correction or like, I don't get it.

David (he/him): And so like, he's like really intentional about what are the things that I'm doing to have like positive interactions, like affirming interactions with these students. And it doesn't have to be like conversations with e every individual student every day about like what they did over the weekend. Right?

Right. But can they have more positive interactions than corrective moments, Whether it is like academically or, you know, behavior wise. And like I, I hesitate to say like, and these are the ways that you can do it, right? Because like restorative justice practices like relationships aren't prescriptive, right?

Robin (she/her): Mm-hmm. 

David (he/him): But when you think about the people in your context, and when you think about the person who you are showing up au up authentically as you are, right? Like you, there is a possibility to make connection even across differences. 

Robin (she/her): Yes, there is. and so in every training that I've had, there's always been someone who has brought up the point that, according to school policy, I'm not able to, maybe hug students.

That's been a, a big piece because you know, of the situation, you know, with some of the issues we've had at in, schools before, I, I can't hug the students, or, you know, I can't tell a young lady this, because it, it happens a lot with our, our males, but, There's a term that's used in restorative, justice practices, of, effective statements, I statements, and it's not really a restorative justice term mm-hmm.

but they talk about how, you know, to use those statements to help young people know how their behavior may be impacting you. But I also say that, something as simple as, you know, I see you have a new book bag today. I really like your book bag. Something as simple as that. something as simple as, Oh, I see that you have on your, you, you have on a pair of, let see, you have pompoms in your hand, you know, or, I see that you have on a varsity jacket.

Mm-hmm. , do you play a. And a student would say yes. And if that, if you can relate to that, If somebody in your family played the same sport, if you played the same sport, all you have to do is say, You know what? My brother played that same sport, he played this position. What position do you play? Just having conversations that are relevant to students' lives.

I was supporting a school this week and brand new teacher in the classroom, you know, very nervous. And when I went after class was over, I went and asked him how everything was going and he said, you know, everything was fine. You know, they seemed okay. They weren't talking too much. but as soon as I started talking about things that were relevant to their lives and they were interested in, they kind of perked up and that's it.

What's gonna be relevant to these young people and using that to make education relevant to them as well. 

David (he/him): So much work that you're doing within the context of, you know, the place where you're, you're working right now, but you have also, In other times, like done this work with teacher candidates, teacher interns, it's so important that like this work starts being a part of that curriculum, but what did that look like?

And, you know, you're, you're not doing, you're not in that role anymore, but like, how do you hope to continue doing that work? 

Robin (she/her): Right? So it's so important for our teacher candidates to really get this before they go into the classroom mm-hmm. . Because once they go into the classroom, you know, it's learn the curriculum, learn the, you know, AP procedures, learn this, learn that.

So I worked with a group of,aspiring educators where I was able to go in and give them, a short training on just going into the classroom, being restorative with young people, building relationships, and making sure that's the emphasis. And that I was able to do that through the union, but at the same, not, but at the same time.

What has happened is a work group was created, within the state that I work in, to discuss what are some, classes, courses, professional learning, that teacher candidates, should take in order to be prepared to go into a school, and contribute to a positive culture in climate. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

and one of those requests was restorative justice.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm.

Robin (she/her): And wanting to allow, departments of education at colleges to have that be a requirement, before they graduate. And that is something that we're pushing, here in our state. But what did pass was the blueprint and in the group, in the blueprint, it does say that school systems must train, new educators in restorative justice practices, as a professional development before they, you know, go into their first year of teaching.

So that is a professional learning that, you know, as a school district, we, must provide to our, our new educators. 

David (he/him): There are a hundred thousand approximately new educators coming into the field, every year. And Right. This isn't a part of the vast majority of their teacher training. statistically, you know, about half of them won't be in the profession within five years.

Right. But like, even like from my perspective, like at Amplify RJ, like, Hey, come to our trainings. Right? Like Right. Send your, have your districts come to, you know, send people, send people to us. But even, you know, even if people aren't lasting in the classroom, like. For me, the work of Amplifier J is to push this work into like all of the places, right?

You talked about how like, you know, in your education practice as your practice, as an educator, as a teacher, like you embody this, you set up your classroom to, you know, build and maintain, build and strengthen as well as repair these relationships. But you know, you've taken that to like who you are as you move throughout the rest of the world as well.

And so, you know, the world just needs more people who understand this and if like teacher education is the way to do it, I am all for that. Yes. In all of the ways. 

Robin (she/her): Oh yes. Oh yes. Another way is to maybe speak to someone who is in the the behavioral and psychology department in colleges, because you may get a degree in those areas, but you can work as a restorative justice, you know, practitioner within a school because you do have, you know, that knowledge.

so that's another avenue. That I have actually, pushed into to get people to think about how this could look in education. 

David (he/him): Yeah. The possibilities are limitless.The classrooms at a time, the individual interactions at a time, the, the, the, the decision makers out of time is like where this work, has to happen.

And so, you know, it's not so subtle plug for like the work of Amplify rj if you are a teacher educator or really any person who wants to learn more about this work. we've got lots of resources, lots of classes, trainings. Asynchronous things as well that you can like really start to like build your practice.

Not that you learn everything, there's to learn from either a book or like watching video lessons, but like encouraging the practice, getting some foundational knowledge, our resources that we have available. So linked to that in the show notes. So, you know, your role now, like, isn't in the classroom, but you're supporting schools, teachers, educators, administrators to do this work.

this is a departure from the way that, most of us have been educated and most educators have been taught to be, talk about the challenges and, the, the successes and the, the wins that you've seen, over your years of doing or being in this role, doing this work. Right. 

Robin (she/her): So, you know, change can be difficult because when we have to change. It's gonna cause us to look at what we've been doing. bSo for the newer teachers, it's been a welcoming experience. For the teachers who've been in it for a while, it's a little challenging because they're used to doing the way things have always been done, and the successes come from, which, from when I lead educators through exercises that allows them to do self-reflection on how they handle their own conflict, how they are in relationship with others outside of an educational space, and what their beliefs are around how young people should be treated.

And disciplined in school and where those beliefs come from. 

David (he/him): Yeah.

Robin (she/her): And helping them understand that your beliefs are not wrong, your values are not wrong. They're a part of who you are, but what is the impact of your actions from your beliefs? Yeah. And once they take the time to self reflect, you can see the shift.

At the same time, there are people who may not see the shift because it is painful to maybe look at areas where you've, you know, done something that was not beneficial to young people. And you don't wanna feel that, feeling of, I did something wrong. 

David (he/him): Yeah. And I've been thinking about this a lot recently.

Where Carefully trying to figure out how to say this.b In trainings that I've done recently, there are people who have shared with me that like, Oh, like I, I appreciated the way that you presented this so much. It made me feel like it didn't, it, you presented it in a way that didn't make me feel bad.

And I can accept that on its face as like, cool, you had a positive experience. But I also, I also wondered in the back of my head, like, Do you not feel bad because like, you didn't, like really do that reflection and see like how you were perpetuating like, these, like these oppressive ways of being. and you know, that's not for me to know.

I don't interrogate that in the moment. Like it, they're often saying it like in a passing comment, like on their way out the door. It's like, okay, you know, it, and for me, I, I can celebrate that they had a positive experience, but I wonder about like, the long term impact of the work and, you know,The good thing is that like I get to continue working with many of those people.

some of them I don't, and then that's where I'm left wondering. I also have to absolve myself of like, it's not my job to like change everybody's behavior and like everybody on journey, but, 

I had to learn that too, David. I had to learn that too. I blame myself when someone wasn't, you know, continuing the work.

Robin (she/her): Yeah. Yeah. 

David (he/him): And. It, it's true, right? Like the, the, the self-reflection that it takes can be painful. Like a lot of times people like criticize your restorative justice to say like, Oh, this is just talking. Like, yes, we are in some ways just talking, but the, the nature of those conversations, right? When you are facing the harm that you've caused, when you're owning the harm that you've caused, often.

Like in front of the person who, like, you've harmed, Like that's really hard. That's not comfortable. Yes. and to step into those spaces and not only like acknowledge the harm, take responsibility, but then like change the behavior. Like those things aren't easy and like I, I have Cynthia, I have empathy for that, Right.

Like, you know, before you change the world, you must change yourself. And like, I am a restorative justice practitioner. That means like, I am not perfect. Like, I, I practice like doing this work thinking , like thinking about like the way that we're in relationship, thinking about like, you know, the hours of five 30 to six 20 this morning when we were trying to get like my five month old to go back to sleep.

There are some not restorative things said back and forth, like between, Exactly. Between my partner and I. Right. But you know, like we, we get to repair that, we get to, we get to move forward in, you know, the context of our relationship. Having some kind of understanding about like, you know, The things that we say, like in the sleep deprived hours are, you know, not the things that we mean and 

Robin (she/her): Right.

David (he/him): You know, but we still gotta say sorry. 

Robin (she/her): Mm-hmm. 

David (he/him): Sorry for it. And acknowledge the things that we do and,um, Yes. Try to mitigate like those, those situations going forward.

Robin (she/her): Yes. 

David (he/him): Wild tangent, all to say like, we're all practicing, we all have to confront, the ways that we've been socialized and trained to be.

and that takes time, you know, for you. Learning and unlearning. Right?

Robin (she/her): Yep. I got from you, David. I got that from you. Unlearning. 

David (he/him): Oh, well. Beautiful. Beautiful. I'm thinking about how, you know, in the scope of doing this work where you do your work. There are like various, there are varying degrees to which like people accept, or embrace these ways of being, for many of reasons, right?

Competing priorities with like, oh, there's, this is just like this other school initiative that like, we're gonna burn out. We're gonna like, leave, leave. 

Robin (she/her): Yeah. Stay for five years and then go away. 

David (he/him): Right? Right. Or like, you know, on top of like pandemic school, like, we need to deal with learning loss or, , I wish people could see your face right now.

what is learning loss? What, what is learning loss? And that, that may be a rhetorical question, but what is learning loss? Okay, David, continue . 

David (he/him): No, I mean, did you, did you wanna say more?

Robin (she/her): I don't know what learning loss means, honestly. And when I heard that phrase I was wondering, is it another phrase to use to put in place another oppressive practice? Or to justify, some type of spending, from a critical area to another area, because I don't believe that young people have lost learning.

I believe that young people were left in a place where they may not have received, learning for a particular, period of time until they were able to put the virtual, you know, learning or the virtual spaces, distance learning in place. But I don't believe that young people lost the learning that they already obtained before that time.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): So, to call it a loss of learning, I don't see the, the connection. 

David (he/him): Yeah. I mean, and I think folk can justify, like you, you lose the habits, of like being in routine, right? You can talk about, right. Some people were able to continue school in more regulated, routine ways, because of resources that either their school or their home life afforded them.

Robin (she/her): Okay. 

and so like there are people who had been left behind, And like are not, quote unquote up to grade level, but I mean, that's the job of teachers , right? To like, continue to like meet students where they're at. and you know, getting to know where students are at, like is relationship building.

David (he/him): And so like how is this work not like the most vital thing that, that we're doing is something that I'm, I'm often saying, I, I guess like most of the time when people are coming into amplify RJ space, like there's already assumption that this work is really important, but like for others who question it, right?

I think the, the other thing that you said is like, you know, learning is happening at all times. Yes. Like, right, well, like you are learning something. and like when we talk about like, the quote unquote social discipline window, like, and talk about like punitive, restorative, neglectful or permissive approaches to like conflict and harm, Right.

Somebody will learn something from any one of those approaches, Right? It's just like, what do you want them to learn? you, you talked earlier about right? You know, when you're, or I don't know if you've mentioned it, but it, it sparked something in me when I think like a powerful exercise when you're having conversations with educators or anybody who's trying to do this work, but says something that like, is about like enforcing hierarchy, demanding respect, asking the student that they're with.

Like, what, what was coming across for you when your teacher said that? Right. and the teacher will. Think that like what they're saying is like, Hey, I want like a safe, quiet classroom environment for everybody to learn. And what the student interprets from that is like, You just want me to shut up and you don't care about like, whatever is going on in my life.

Right? And like, that was not the teacher's intention, right?

Robin (she/her): Mm-hmm. 

David (he/him): But that is what was happening because of the way that that situation was handled. And so 

Robin (she/her): The impact 

David (he/him): All of this is to say like, you know, that student in that moment learned that that teacher didn't care for them as a person, , Right? Or at least in that instance.

And so like, we're, we're learning all the time. It's just like, are we up to like grade level math standards? Maybe, maybe not, right? I think like the fundamental question that we're then asking is like, what is the purpose of education, Which is like a whole nother tangent that we, may or might not have time for.

No. Let, let's ask the question like in your mind now, like you started. Your education journey in 1990. Right. 

Robin (she/her): Yeah. rIght, right, right. b

what was, when you thought about education, like what did you think about the purpose of education then, and what do you think about it now? 

Robin (she/her): That cliche to prepare students to be a protective citizen of a global society?

Mm-hmm. , that is the phrase that is used to describe, you know, our mission of education. I believe that education is a way to allow young people to develop, social capital, to develop, quote unquote human capital. And I'm using that term in a, in a positive way, human capital, to be with one another, in a way in which everyone can, Feel like they are a vital part of this society.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm.

Robin (she/her): So you educate young people, socially, of course academically, and you also educate people, emotionally and, physically. And you do this through taking care of every need the young person has, not just the cognitive need or academic need, but the social need, the emotional need, the mental need, because they're with you sometimes longer periods than they are with their household members.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): You teach them how to be with different people to achieve a universal goal, which is to receive a diploma. But how can I. Work through this, this community so we all can get to this end together. 

David (he/him): What do you say to the teacher who's like, I'm here to teach them science, or I'm here to teach them math, or I'm here to teach them reading and, you know, that's what I'm here for.

I'm here to like teach them this skill. 

Robin (she/her): Let's see. Should I tell you what I'm really thinking? to that teacher, I would say, you know, when education first begin, they, that may have been the goal is to just teach them content. I said, But as, as we have evolved in education, as people, some of our young people are not coming from places that they're receiving.

The skills that they need to get along with other people in society. So as teachers, we are that person that have to teach them, these particular skills. So you'll be able to teach them the science and the math and the social studies because if you don't prepare them to be ready to learn, then they're not gonna learn the content.

And it's not our student's responsibility to come to school ready to learn. It's not our student's responsibility to come to school prepared to learn. It is, we know, you know, the adult in their lives. And if the adult in their lives is not able to provide that for them, then it's the other adult in their lives, which are the educators.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): And, and, and that's my belief. That's my belief. And that's always been my belief. Unless I was mad at a student, then I said, You know what? 

Well, I mean, I think like your parents didn't raise you right.

David (he/him): I think about the state of education, as it stands, right, where teachers are underpaid, overworked, overvalued.

And when we're saying like on top of lesson planning, curriculum grading instruction, like there's this whole nother level where you are already, burned out mm-hmm. like debating on whether or not you want to even stay in this profession, we're asking you to do this thing. I understand how like restorative justice practices can be like just another thing that I have to do.

Yeah. and, and to me that says like, you know, this work is not. Is partially about like individuals upholding like these values and practices in their context, but it's also like a structural, a structural thing in the school. And so as you are talking with school leaders, like how are you encouraging people to build environments where these practices can flourish and thrive?

Robin (she/her): Right. So I wanna say that, in my trainings and in my, overviews and discussions, I always talk to 'em about, this is not something else that you have to do. This is the way you have to be. because the way you are with young people perceives how you do things with, with others, not just young people, but with others.

So what I wanna, what I encourage, school leaders is first of all, kind of remove yourself from that traditional mindset of authority and understand that you wanna build a culture of collaboration. I build a culture of, teamwork and not just that, yeah, we're a team. You gotta be a team player.

That means you gotta go along with everybody. But to really create a culture where people can question why this is, have input around, well, could we do it this way or this makes more sense? And having the willingness to listen to them. And then if you have to make a directive decision, explain to them why that director decision had to be made so they can understand the why.

I also let them know, you know, as a school build, as a school leader, you want to model this behavior, speak to your staff. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm.

Robin (she/her): Have, intentional spaces where staff can, build community with one another. have spaces where, You have staff, to be able to voice, their successes, their wins, to ask questions around what type of supports they need.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): And I also let them know, don't expect a quick fix, because we're talking about changing hearts. And changing hearts takes time, especially with adults, because we've been with this particular, we've been this particular way for so long, and now we're trying to shift it. So when we're building these frameworks in schools, allow for your stumbles.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): Because your stumbles will open the door for improvements and let staff know it's, it's okay to, you know, make a mistake. How can I support you? Not caring the load alone. Having a team to help champion this work in their buildings as well. and to see it as a way where we can just be who we are professionally, of course, that's going to foster a sense of respect, dignity, and mutual concern in everyone.

So it's really about who we are and the way we do things and, you know, a school community. 

David (he/him): Yeah. It is a re it's, it is a reorientation for a lot of people the way that they've been trained. This, this, analogy that I'm about to make might be a jump for some people, but I think it's actually like pretty relevant. 

Robin (she/her): Mm-hmm. 

David (he/him): Most police officers that I know do not go into their jobs saying that I want to terrorize black and brown communities.

Robin (she/her): Mm-hmm.

David (he/him): Right. and that's what they end up doing because of the nature of their training and their jobs. Right. Most people who go into education say like, I want to belittle dehumanize black and brown children when they come into the classroom. That's not why you got into education. Right. And I am not equating, and incarcerating and murdering and like physically assaulting people to, you know, the way that students are necessarily dehumanized.

Like there's a difference between like the physical, the physical like incarceration, the physical death. But the way that schools are constructed are not life giving. To people broadly, right? Yeah. like police officers suffer under like the construction of policing, just like teachers suffer under the construction of education.

But the impact of that is felt on, right? The people that they quote unquote serve, right? Whether that is residents of a neighborhood or, you know, participants in their classroom. And so, like, while that is not the reason that you got into your profession, right? You're working within a system that reads that.

And so it is that reorientation that has to be really intentional, both at, for, from an individual practitioner, like, of your discipline as, as a teacher and an administrator. But it's also like a systemic change. And like, while I am in some ways, Hopeful for, you know, the impact of the work that like you do.

So many others who've been on these airways that, and then I do, in schools, working with educators like is making change in these individual relationships and changing circumstances for individual students as well as like, colleague to colleague relationships. I'm curious about whether you think the construction of schooling as it exists, is conducive to full, embrace of restorative justice practices?

Robin (she/her): No. 

David (he/him): Okay. I mean, I knew the answer to that question, but 

Robin (she/her): Yeah. Dwana, Nicole, one of my mentors, stated it very, clearly, you know, this work does not fit comfortably in our current educational system. So implementing this work can feel very uncomfortable because we are used to, you know, the compliance, the control, the policy driven, but.

It starts with seeing students differently and understanding that when you see students or when you see children as children and you allow them to be children, then you're able to use the term discipline in which the way it was meant to be used, which is to teach.

David (he/him): Yeah. 

Robin (she/her): To correct to guide. And that happens when you see students differently and when you perceive the word discipline differently.

At the same time, understanding that we are teaching humans. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): We're not teaching robots. 

David (he/him): Yeah. 

Robin (she/her): So while it's very easy to check a box, the box is not going to help build or affirm. to celebrate children. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): If you're only checking a box, you gotta basically be the box . 

David (he/him): Yeah. 

Robin (she/her): You gotta be the box, you know?

you, you, you have to be, you know, the, the nurturer. You have to be, the transformer of confident. You have to be, you know, that equalizer, to make sure every student gets what they need to thrive. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm.

Robin (she/her): So you have to be the box, you know, not just check. Yeah, we we're equitable. You have to be equitable.

Not just check, you know? we have healthy relationships. You gotta be a healthy person in relationship and you teach children to do the same thing. So when they become the great leaders of our nation, then they can shift the institution of education and hopefully shift the institution of the criminal justice system.

But that's another podcast. 

David (he/him): Well, we'll leave it for the next time you come on. Those are great words to transition into the questions that everybody answers when they come on the podcast right after this. 

Robin (she/her): Ooh. Okay.

David (he/him): So Robin, in your own words, define restorative justice. Oh my 

Robin (she/her): goodness. Restorative justice practices or restorative justice is a way of being in which you emphasize being in right relationships to one with one another.

And once you're in right relationships with one another, whenever harm happens or you have to address, a particular conflict that is taking place, you're able to do that in an authentic way in which everyone is heard, Everyone's needs are addressed, and you work to make things as right as possible.

Understanding that, you know, we may not get to what we all need, but at least we have the opportunity to express what we need. Mm-hmm. , and then move forward to doing what we can. To get close to that as possible. If not, get that. 

David (he/him): Yeah. as you've been doing this work over the years, what's been an oh shit moment and what did you learn from it?

Robin (she/her): Oh, okay. So, wow. there was a, a situation, well I had, I had two oh shit moments, if you don't mind. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): the first Oh shit moment was when I realized that I was a conductor on the school to prison pipeline. That was very sobering for me. and I think I was also a conductor that was also guiding my son towards the same space.

The second, Oh shit moment was when I had, 

David (he/him): Sorry. What was that real- like, what was the moment where you realized that? 

when I realized my, my punitive nature with my son. The punitive nature with my students, were leading them to a space in which they felt like. Something's wrong with me.

Robin (she/her): I don't belong, so I'm gonna go and find a group of people that will accept me. For my, for my son. That's what it was. For my student, it was, well, you know what, why am I coming to school anyway? Why am I going to class anyway? I'm just gonna drop out. And while I might not know specifically that it was because of me, I do know that I was still the contributor because the impact was not a positive impact to make him or her wanna stay in the classroom or stay in school.

David (he/him): Yeah. 

Robin (she/her): Yeah. 

David (he/him): You talked about, and, and we didn't necessarily touch on it earlier, and I wanna like circle back. You, you talked about like, you know, the way that you brought this way of being home. what did that look like? 

Robin (she/her): I had to first apologize to my son for the way I parented him, and I parented my son the way I was parented.

and I'm quite sure my parents parented me the way they were parented. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm.

Robin (she/her): And I saw, 

David (he/him): Can, we name really specifically what that looks like? 

very punitive. I grew up in the south, where you were seen and not heard. I received spankings. We had a beautiful switch tree in the back in the back of my house.

Robin (she/her): And I've visited that tree several times a month. And, I was, I was punished. I was, I was spanked. whenever I got a phone call from school, whenever I, you know, did a, an action or displayed a behavior that was unacceptable in my household, you know, I was punished for it. And, I was told I had to fit in this particular space specifically because of who I was and because of my name.

and there was no negotiation. There was no. no grace, so to speak. Yeah, so that's how I parented my son. I don't want anything in this house lower than a B, if you do something incorrect instead of me teaching you, I would just spank you hoping that you would change.

I would not listen. I believe the adults over my son and I acknowledged that I did all these things as he was growing up. So, of course I came in contact with this work after he, you know, was a grown man and I had to apologize, like I stated. And I also had to listen to him. I had to ask him questions instead of me assuming.

Robin (she/her): What he felt or the his why. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

I had to explain, I had to be vulnerable with him to let him know how I felt because of something that he was doing. And I had to compromise on some things as well. And normally I'm like, look, I'm the adult, but I had to say, you know, in order for us to have harmony in our home, I'm gonna have to compromise because this is who he is and this is what he needs.

Robin (she/her): So Robin, you know, that's compromised with him. 

David (he/him): Yeah. thank you for sharing that. Thank you. For one, I'm reflective of like, damn, like my kid wanted to be awake at five 20 this morning. Should I? No, no, you gotta go to sleep , Right? For the harmony of this household. Like you need to be asleep, right? yes, but, but, but I mean, I think.

I think like I'm okay with that framing of like, you know, we don't get to speak English to each other yet, and we're trying to, bring him into a space where he can, you know, settle himself specifically when, you know mom and dad need sleep, to like be the best parents that we can be for you. And I think I'm okay with like that and, you know, I'm gonna continue to navigate what it means to like, be a quote unquote restorative parent, as we go.

But you know, I think like the specificity of, you know, the conditions which you grew up under right in the south with the switch, right? And it's been a minute since I've said it on this podcast and made this connection, but it's really important for us black people, and I think people of the global majority to remember that right one, we don't need to replicate the harm that will happen to our young people inside of our home.

Right? Like, we don't need to tell, like, we don't need to, like this is what they're gonna do to you out there. So like, I'm going, 

Robin (she/her): Oh my goodness.

David (he/him): Right? Like, I, like, I see where that like mentality of like, I want to show you the thing to avoid. I, I understand where that comes from, but like, love and abuse can't exist in, in that same place.

Right? What was your son learning from. You know, being spanked, right? Like, or what were you learning from like having to visit the beautiful switch tree, right? Like, right. Like you weren't learning how to 

Robin (she/her): not get caught. How to not get caught. That's what, 

David (he/him): and you know, again, like speaking to like where you were, like that's not how our people, did discipline.

I mean like right. This is a remnant of like plantations and like behavior control, right? and that's something that we've inherited in like our more recent history that we need to break up with. and. That happens in, in so many different circumstances. Right. but thank you for, for sharing, you know, the specificity.

So like we can make that connection for folks. 

Robin (she/her): David, there's another thing I wanted to mention, even as we talk about how this work is beginning to spread across the educational sphere, is that we wanna make sure we don't bring that same colonized mindset into this practice. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

there are situations where I have seen trainings done where people have been told that if a young person is in circle and they're continuing to talk without having the talking piece in their hand to maybe go and stand by them or, you know, maybe do this to try to get them to, to be quiet.

Robin (she/her): And for me it didn't sit right because once again, that looks like a behavioral management. type of, practice and behavior management has no place in this work of restorative justice. So I want people to understand that even as they begin this work of being restorative with young people, to be very mindful about how some of those old learnings will creep into, your practice.

David (he/him): Mm-hmm. 

Robin (she/her): there are no rewards, there are no incentives in restorative work. you know, there is no, controlling or management in this restorative work. So when you mention that, it made me think about, you know, when I first did, when I did my first circle, and how I was still trying to control that space using, you know, that control piece.

And, so I just wanted to kind of mention that. 

you might have been prepared for this. you get to sit in circle with four people living your dead.

David (he/him): Who are they and what is the question that you asked? The circle? 

Robin (she/her): Oh, I would love to sit in a circle with my mother, who transitioned when I was 12. Mm. I would love to sit in circle with my aunt, who basically, was a surrogate mother to me. I would love to sit in circle with one of my ancestors.

From the Ivory Coast. And I would love to sit in circle with the Scottish family that own my people. 

David (he/him): Mm-hmm.

Robin (she/her): bThe one question that I would ask would be, if there is one thing you would like to change about your life that would have a direct or indirect impact in my future, what would it be?

David (he/him): What do you hope each of them would say? 

Robin (she/her): I hope my mother would say that she would've spent more time with me and she would've talked to me more. I wish my aunt. Would say, she would have shared with me why she had to become my surrogate mother. I wish my ancestor would share with me

Why they did not choose death? And I would like the Scottish people who own my family to share why they did not free their enslaved Africans.

David (he/him): Thank you for sharing that. I didn't even think about McNair. Right. Harris is a Scottish name too. 

Robin (she/her): Mm-hmm. We're cousins. Yay. 

David (he/him): Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. and you know that, that's real. Thank, thank you for, Thank you for sharing. this one's also difficult because it requires homework from you of Yeah.

You know, who's one person that I should have on this podcast and you have to help me get them on. 

Robin (she/her): Ooh. Ooh. Okay. 

David (he/him): You can bug Dwanna for me.

Robin (she/her): Yes. That . Yes. Dwanna Nicole. That is the one person I would love for you to have on this podcast because you've had my other mentor, Nancy Rustenberg. Yeah. Yeah.

That's my other mentor. And I have so many, Kathy Evans and, 

David (he/him): Yep. Pat,her too. 

Robin (she/her): Yep. Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Yep. Kate but yes, Dwanna, Nicole. I she is fearless in my eyes when it comes down to laying down the facts. When I started this restorative journey and wanting to bring it to my district, she told me across the table, You're not ready.

You're not ready to do this work. I was like, Oh, how dare you say that to me. But she was correct. I wasn't ready because I had not shifted my mindset. So, yeah. 

David (he/him): Yeah. All right. Do wanna, if you're out there listening, you know, been a minute, like, we're gonna make this out then. 

Robin (she/her): Yeah. 

and then finally, where can people support you and your work in the ways that you wanna be supported?

Robin (she/her): Mm. You know, you can support my work in making a commitment to do the work in a way that honors the indigenous folk. That are the value and true humanness of others. And to not put it in a box, Be the box. 

David (he/him): Yeah.

Robin (she/her): And that, that's how you can support me. 

David (he/him): Beautiful. Thank you so much. we- 

Robin (she/her): You're welcome. 

David (he/him): We, there have been so many like gems and so I'm, I'm just super grateful, that we got one that we just gotta spend more time together and two, that you shared your stories, your wisdom here on this restorative justice life.

We'll be back with another conversation with somebody living this way of being next week. Until then, take care.