Brittany Jefferson she/they (@climatejusticeteachermom) is a teacher and climate justice advocate from Los Angeles. Through advocacy and education, Brittany helps caregivers and educators have critical conversations about identity, social justice, and environmental justice with their kids and students. Brittany has curated and created a catalog of educational resources, in order to facilitate learning both in the classroom and at home. Brittany is also a member of the Climate Curricula Committee of Climate Reality Los Angeles Chapter. This group networks with various organizations to advocate for climate literacy in schools and provide professional development for K-12 teachers.
Brittany On Instagram
Climate Justice IS Restorative Justice Workshop with Brittany on April 15
Send us feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join our Amplify RJ Community platform to connect with others doing this work!
Check out our latest learning opportunities HERE
Rep Amplify RJ Merch
Connect with us on:
Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok!
SUPPORT by sharing this podcast, leaving a rating or review, or make a tax-deductible DONATION to help us sustain and grow this movement
David: Brittany, welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are
Brittany: you? I am an abolitionist caregiver of kids that I gave birth to and kids in my community.
David: Who are you?
Brittany: I am a spouse and like a community member. Who are you? I am a black, indigenous woman born and raised in Los Angeles, California.
David: Who are you?
Brittany: I am. A huge superhero nerd star Wars, Marvel, dc, all of it.
David: Who are you?
Brittany: I am a bookworm. I read a ton of books.
David: Who are you?
Brittany: I am a climate educator, a climate justice activist and, you know, just a human being on the earth. Who are you? I am
Britney, Jeff, Jefferson.
David: I think you might have actually done seven, but I lost track on my fingers, so I'm gonna give you one more. Who are you?
Brittany: I am. A screen studies major, so I watch tons of movies and TV and analyze them until my little heart is content.
David: Beautiful, beautiful. Well, Brittany, it is so good to have you here on this restorative justice life.
I told you in the dms when I reached out and in our conversation before we started recording, like I think of all the people who I've had on these hundred plus podcasts. Episodes so far. When I think about the person who I wanted to interview, like you check like so many of the boxes, not somebody who is like died in the wool, restorative justice, practitioner, professional, and like philosophy values, like all that, like being your experience, but somebody who is in their everyday life across so many of those things that those roles that you embody, like are really deeply thinking about what it means to be in right relationship with people in your community, people around you and the way that you've expressed yourself about it specifically as it comes to the intersection of this work and climate justice.
I was just like super stoked to finally make the I R L or at least virtual connection as opposed to, you know, just the occasional dm. So thank you so much for being here. I'll say before you respond to that, the other thing that I'm really excited about is that you're gonna be offering our community a learning opportunity to get into the Details of what it does, what it means to teach climate justice education on April 15th in the morning 9:00 AM Pacific time where, where we are, and the links to get in on that learning art in the show notes or in the description, depending on where you're listening to that.
But with all of that being said, so good to have you here. We always like to check in. It's so good to be here. How are you doing?
Brittany: I am so excited for many of the reasons why, like you mentioned, you know it feels really good to, you know, like connect with you one-on-one. I've enjoyed so much of what you and Amplify RJ offers and how it connects to the work that I do and like that application.
And so it's really great to just, I really look forward to us having this conversation about how our worlds are so interconnected.
David: Yeah. You know, we often start by asking people about, you know, where this journey around restorative justice explicitly or implicitly started for them. But I want to broaden that for you just because when we're thinking about climate justice you know, our relationship with the earth is one that's important.
Where did your journey with really thinking deeply about what it means to care for the environment? Start.
Brittany: Childhood, honestly, I was raised by my mom with help from my aunt, and they are both, you know, very big on nature, being out in nature, taking care of nature. My mom is one of those people that like, if there's a bug in the house, she will not kill it.
She will catch it and she will take it outside. My aunt is also like straight up Dr. Doolittle, like all the stray cats and like, is feeding the raccoons and the possums and like, they really just raised me to honor life of all beings and not just humans. And so I think that really is what started my, you know, journey as a person who wants to stay connected to nature.
David: Yeah, that's so when we talk about restorative justice, capital R, capital J, you know, there are like the formal ways that people have been ingratiated into this work. Sometimes from their upbringing, sometimes from indigenous perspectives, sometimes from, you know, taking a trainee or course.
But when we talk about like capital C, capital J, climate justice, it's also really similar in that people have been taught from their families, from indigenous traditions, from lots of different places that this is our home. Let's take care of it. Let's not be exploitative, let's not do things that are actively harming.
And in the. Modern global capitalist, sorry, late stage global capitalist world that like we live in everything that we do. So many of the things that we do have, like unintended consequences and repercussions of their, because of the ways that we're so interconnected. As you started to grow older, what were some of those connections that you were seeing between like human behavior and the way that the earth was continued to be hurt, harmed and, you know, us feeling the impacts of that.
Brittany: Yeah, so I mean, I grew up in the nineties and there was a lot, you know, in mainstream media there's a lot of like reduced, reuse, recycle, you know, lots of conversations about nature and like different you know, like. Personalities like Steve Irv Irwin, and like Jack Hannah. Mm-hmm. And like people who, you know, kind of talked about like conservation and things like that.
And so I always kind of knew that nature was important. I also knew that it was, you know, essential to life and are very existence. And you know, I also was very studious. And so everything that I learned in science class and everything I learned about Earth kind of, you know, really made me, you know, just think about like our place as human beings.
And I also am just naturally curious and inquisitive. And so I always thought about like, well, why do I have to have a job? Like, why do we live in cities with paved roads and like, why are we so disconnected from nature and, you know, how did that, how did that happen? And so, you know, I think like as I grew up and, you know, went through college and, you know, kind of started learning about climate change specifically, I started really seeing how throughout human history we became disconnected more and more disconnected from nature and how we kind of viewed ourselves as like on top.
And you know, like kind of looking down on the natural world and not really thinking of ourselves as a part of it. And so, I started really learning about like the vast impacts of our modern society and capitalism and industrialization of the worlds, like through the Inconvenient Truth, the documentary Inconvenient Truth.
Mm-hmm. And I was like, oh, whoa. Like we're about to cause an apocalypse. Got it. Okay. Like, we have to do something different. This living completely separately from nature is not working and we are, as a result harming ourselves by, you know, being so extractive and like depleting all of the natural things that are around us.
David: Yeah. You know, one of the things that you told me in our like time, right before we started recording is that when you. Learn all of those things. When people learn all of these things, when you say like, apocalypse right people and maybe you like felt paralyzed, like, what the hell am I supposed to do about this?
How did you evolve from like those feelings of like, oh my gosh, these are insurmountable problems. Like we're all fucked to like, oh, these are some of the things that I can actually do. These are some of the things that like I want to move and help other people move towards.
Brittany: I think when I became rooted in understanding that first, like my positionality as a middle class American someone who was born and raised in a western nation that utilizes so many more resources than people of on other continents and how, like my privilege as someone who has had kind of like a softer.
Existence, a more comfortable existence that like, that Doism is really, you know, just kind of rooted in that privilege. And so learning from, you know, indigenous Africans learning more about the history of colonialism and its impact on, you know, the Western hemisphere and how communities have been dealing with the extractive practices for centuries and how they keep going, I think is what kind of gave me more of a reality check where it's like, okay, you don't really have room to be overwhelmed because sis you've been comfortable, you've been able to kind of live your life and, you know, navigate the world as an American teenager.
Mm-hmm. You know, while like putting things, things on the back. When other people have, like, it is essential to their survival. And so that has really made me be like, oh, you know what? I think I need to like look past myself and I need to look past my own anxieties for the future. And, you know, kind of realize that people are being impacted, their lives are being impacted today and they always kind of have been.
And that climate change is not really a future thing. It's a now thing. And I also am an only one person. I am a drop in this, you know, vast ocean of people in this like collective. And so I can only do what I am in control of and I can only control my own sphere of influence. And I think that it brings things a little down to earth because everything can feel so vast and so, you know, complicated and so out of reach, but just like remembering that.
You know, there are many people out here who are trying to do the same thing. And so finding that community is also very helpful. And I also will say that it's not really a linear journey. I still have moments, I still deal with, you know, anxiety and depression directly related to you know, climate emergencies.
I, you know, have engaged in disordered eating because of climate related issues and like how I process those things. And so, You know, like it's, it's not linear. It definitely is a fluid process that I am always working on. And I also just like wanna feel happiness and peace and joy. And you can't do that when you're constantly thinking about the world ending.
David: Thank you for all of that. And I think, you know, in the form in sticking with like, these things are non-linear, I wanna like loop back to, you know, one of the things that you talked about being that there, there's a moment to feel overwhelmed when you first learned this information. But what I didn't hear is like, feeling guilty for like your positionality, right?
I don't know if that's something that you experienced and got over or if that's something that like you just didn't experience. But I also know that some people, when they learn the ways that the way that they exist in the world has been causing harm or they're participating in systems that have caused harm to other people they're, they can get stuck in that guilt.
Was that something that you experienced?
Brittany: Yeah. So, you know, I mentioned earlier like that I've kind of had like disordered eating practices, like that was definitely rooted in guilt. Mm-hmm. So my meat consumption, my dairy consumption, eating food that was in plastic packaging, eating more processed foods thinking about farm workers and the labor that it takes for me to be able to comfortably go to the grocery store and get whatever I want.
Mm-hmm. Also just thinking about like other folks who, and just like the amount of food that gets wasted in American households and, you know, access to food and food scarcity in different neighborhoods and communities and things like that. I was definite, I felt every time I ate something that didn't directly align with being like organic.
Plastic free, like vegan, anything like that. I felt guilty for eating it. And so the way I rationalized it was, I'm just not going to eat. Mm-hmm. I just won't eat anything and then I won't feel guilty. But then, you know, there are health repercussions for that. You know, your body needs food. It needs fuel.
I, I, and like, I can't do play my part. I can't be a part of this collective voice for justice if I'm wasting away and I'm not giving my brain enough calories to function. So like, you know, even just like in therapy, my therapist was like, well, I, if you want to be able to do this work, you can't starve yourself.
Your brain has like, you're probably feeling tired all the time. Mm-hmm. Because you're not giving your brain enough calories to function properly. And so then I had to like work through. In the short term, I just need to take care of my body. I just need to take care of myself in order to be able to contribute to the positive change that I would like to see.
And I just have to put more thought into preparing and planning my meals so that I can, you know, be nourishing myself.
David: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, when people are racked with all these problems in the world and the ways that we're contributing to them, like that can be a paralyzing thing.
And I've had lots of conversations with lots of folks on and off offing our, obviously about the general state of the world. Yes. Like when we're talking about the criminal legal system, punitive ways that we deal with discipline in schools and just all the things that are messed up in the world.
And there's no magical snap of the fingers. Nobody's Thanos here. Right. We're not like, Getting rid of half the Earth's population in efforts to, you know, give the rest of life a better chance on this planet. Just like we're not snapping our fingers and changing cultural norms and mindsets about racial equity or, you know, the rights of queer folks and, you know, autonomy over people's bodies.
And like all of these things we're, we're not getting to snap our fingers. And in our efforts to make those changes for a more just an equitable world, just an equitable world we can't sacrifice ourselves. Right? There are elements of what we do that is self-sacrificing, right? There are times when we're gonna prioritize work over.
Any number of things that are going on in our lives, but we're still whole people. When we're talking about restorative justice, the first relationship that you have is the relationship with yourself. So if you're not doing the things that are gonna take care of you as a person moving through the world you're not gonna be very effective at.
Doing the things that you want to see happen in the world. So, you know, whether it is with climate justice, whether it is with, you know, men struggling or wrestling with like, the world of misogyny and patriarchy straight folks dealing with, you know, the hetero patriarchy folks dealing with white supremacy, right?
Like we are all people who are trapped in these systems. And you don't have to get stuck in paralysis at the enormity of the problem. You don't have to get stuck in the guilt of the ways that you contribute to the problem. What are the things that you are going to do to undo them? What are the things that you're going to do to continue to take care of yourself and live in your values as much as possible?
And so I'm curious for you, you're not Thanos, you're not gonna snap your fingers, and I imagine you're not out on you know, genocide of all half, half of humans or maybe just like the global North and global West to like in, in efforts to like solve the climate crisis. What are some of the things that you have engaged in?
What are some of the things that you encourage other people to get into?
Brittany: Well definitely find a community that aligns with like what you're passionate about. Because I think people often think that like, oh, I have to like, quit my job in corporate America and go like, get a climate related job or a sustainability related job, or renewable energy related job.
And that's not necessarily the case, right? Like dealing with addressing climate change. Infiltrates all aspects of our lives. So if you are passionate about marketing, if you are in pr, right? Like how can you use that and, you know, have some good PR for the environment, how can you, if you're an artist, if you're a creative, how can you incorporate that into your work?
And it's a lot of like how I educate my students, right? Like, you don't have to, everything doesn't have to be focused specifically on something that is like related to the earth because like, our very existence is the earth, right? Our human communities are the earth. And so, you know, find things that you are passionate about, find other people who are also, you know, passionate about those things and are within the same, you know, sectors as you, or have the same hobbies or skillsets as you do.
And. You know, how can you apply that to a more sustainable world? I also like engage people in like looking up solutions, right? Like what we know is that the solutions are there. We have them. This is not, we have, we don't have to wait until certain technology is developed. We don't have to you know, wait on the billionaires of the world to figure out something to save us.
The solutions are there. It's just a matter of funding. It's a matter of support. It's a matter of civic engagement and community engagement and like educating people on those things and then making sure that we are implementing them. And then also just like take time to rest and be still and like be outside and connect with nature because.
Ultimately, like it has, you know, positive effects on our bodies, positive effects on our mental health, but like genuinely just being outside is, you know, you're like, you're feeding that connection to the earth and I think that like as much as we can kind of divest from that grind culture of capitalism as well and just like taking care of ourselves, that will also kind of open up our imaginations to be able to like radically imagine what we want to see and give us this like path that we can work towards.
David: Yeah, I. Really appreciate the, that first part of what you were talking about, where it's like you don't have to drop everything and like radically change your life. Like quit your job, find it, find a new thing. That might be for some people, right? That's not for most people. And even like the tactics that you talked about like finding the places where it makes sense within the context of your life is, is really helpful and really important, right?
Because the communities that people have that's where you're gonna be able to have the most impact, right? With people that you know. And when I think about, you know, the intersection of doing this work within the context, like doing restorative justice work, right? Mm-hmm. Overnight quitting your job and finding a.
position as a restorative justice coordinator, restorative justice facilitator, restorative justice, community educator, right? Like that doesn't exist in so many spaces. And so, you know, there might not be like a climate justice position for like the teachers at your school, right? But like, as a teacher, within the context of your school, what are the things that you're teaching your students?
What are the conversations that you're having with your colleagues? What are the conversations that you're having about the vendors that your school is working with, right? What are the ways that you can have those conversations that will promote people thinking about these things a little bit more?
Right? Because as individuals we don't necessarily have all the answers to these problems, and people in our communities have wisdom that we might not have that will help us get to solutions or at least harm reductive steps. That will you. Help preserve this planet for a little bit longer, make the conditions livable.
Safe and comfortable for life in general, but you know, humans as we, as we've existed for the last, you know, couple thousand years.
Brittany: Exactly, exactly.
David: When I think about climate justice and my experience with this work I also grew up in the nineties.
Didn't necess of course, like the reduced reuse. Recycle is something that's like burned into my brain. But I think one of the first things that I. Identified as climate justice was Greenpeace and their like ecoterrorism efforts. Right. And when I think some people hear climate justice, that might be what comes to mind for them.
And I'm not here to say that any way of naming harm or identifying harm is wrong or bad. I will say that I'm not here sponsoring. Yeah. Or like promoting ecoterrorism. When you think about the practices and values of restorative justice as a way to move through the world, how does that intersect with the way that you think about having conversations about climate justice and pushing people who might not want to do things that are in the best interest of the planet to think a little bit differently?
Brittany: Well, when I think of just connection and when I think of interacting with other people, right? People don't like to be told they're wrong and people don't like to be. Critiqued in a way that makes them uncomfortable. And oftentimes like the stronger your tone and the stronger your stance, the more off put people are.
Right. And so I've learned, because I can do that sometimes. Like I kind of, I'm very blunt, I am known to be, I'm known to be a person that often like speaks before I think. And I also can, like, I've, you know, also been told that like I'm a bit like combative and so it's something that I've always just kind of like thought on and reflected of like, how can I be more like welcoming in my message so that I have people who want to be on board.
Not because I've guilted them or shamed them into being on board. And so you have to meet people where they are. I think that's the big thing. And like understanding, you know, with my connection and like my work and just trying to be in a bar educator and like trying to implement more restorative practices in my classroom and things like that.
Like I've realized that, you know, none of us are perfect. Right? None of us are, you know, like I don't want to guilt people into making them feel bad for the choices that they've made. Right. And also understanding that people make different choices for different reasons and that they are in different circumstances and.
We have to be open-minded and we have to kind of see people where they are. And I think that's where I started. Like I kind of switched my language as like being an advocate and more of being an educator. Like I want to give people knowledge for them to be able to make their own decisions. And I think also that we have to think about like our own sphere of influence.
We can't control the choices that people make. What we can though is influence them to decide for themselves that they wanna do something different. And so welcoming people into, you know, this worldview of justice, everyone who is willing to participate in climate justice work, right?
We need everyone to do that. And so if we're making people feel guilty or ashamed for the choices that they've made, or we are. You know, telling people that the way that they're doing things isn't the right way to do things. Then we risk putting people off from the movement altogether, and that's not, that's not what we want either.
And also I think accepting that people are going to be, or people are going to choose their own path, right? There are 8 billion people on the planet, and so that means that there are 8 billion different paths to climate justice. And people can kind of take in their own interpretation of what that means for them and take a path that works best for them in restoring their connection to nature, in restoring biodiversity on the planet and restoring, you know, Equity and justice and, you know, sovereignty to groups of people whose sovereignty has been stripped away.
David: Yeah. A couple things came up for me when you were talking at the beginning, right? Thinking about the body that you're in, and the ways that the words like abrasive, harsh like angry would be used when people hear words from you as, as a black woman, right? And having to make the calculation for yourself for the sake of this message.
Like maybe I'm not being abrasive. Maybe I'm not being loud or angry. Maybe this is just how people are receiving me. The, the choice to like soften in order to help people hear what you're trying to say to them. How do you navigate that versus if you just can't, if you can't hear me, and if you can't take this from me, like, F you, you're the problem.
Brittany: Right? I mean, it's definitely been a lot of self-reflection. I, because I feel like I've had years of practice in kind of softening my message, right? Like, because it's not just, it's people who are close to me who have given me that feedback. It's not just, you know, like I've gotten the white tier from colleagues at work.
I've gotten, you know, I've gotten the label of being confrontational and I've, you know, Been able to kind of decipher those different interactions. And so I've, I have gotten to the point where like years of practice of kind of being more diplomatic and also being more open, I have been able to identify like, oh no, it's not me, it's you, you're tripping.
And so I do think though that it is a gray area and it is very difficult to navigate as a black woman, as a black woman in a field that is also, you know, dominated by you know, white female majority. Mm-hmm. And so I think that, you know, just like years of practice have kind of been able to help me understand like the nuance of those types of interactions.
And I think I'm much better at being like, oh no, it's not.
David: Yeah. Yeah. The other thing that came up for me is like, what's the difference between softening versus watering down what you have to say.
Brittany: Hmm. Yeah. So I think like, when I am thinking about softening right? Versus watering down, like the message stays the same and it's like the delivery that changes, right?
So oftentimes rather than like communicating things, I, I think for me it's all about tone and it's about how I, what tone I use to express what it is that I am saying. Mm-hmm. But the message has to stay the same, right? Like, I don't want people to feel as like I am. What I don't wanna do is like, Placate people and like make sure that they feel comfortable.
I am going to, we're going to embrace the discomfort that is, you know, this situation. But I'm going to make sure that I am, you know, keeping an even tone, that I'm not raising my voice, that I'm too passionate. I, and I know that that kind of, to a certain extent. Like I know that there's gonna be people out there, they'll be like, but you shouldn't have to do that.
Mm-hmm. But you know, the reality is, In certain spaces you kind of do, and as long as the message is the same, then people are gonna do with it what they will.
David: Right. And I think what you were saying about 8 billion people, 8 billion different paths, like is something that we have to consider as well.
Right. You know, the difference between like tone policing yourself and code switching to reach an end. Like is there like the nuance. Is like there, there is a lot of nuance there. There is a gray area as you were saying, but you know, having years of experience doing this is definitely helpful for folks.
And I think, you know, when we're talking about ideas of climate justice, talking about ideas of restorative justice, talking about ideas that are asking people to change behavior from the way that one, that society works, and two that like they've been socialized into doing over the decades of their lives.
Those are like really difficult things to do. But I'm curious like, When you're working with younger people, right, who you spend most of your days with in classrooms, you know, without giving away all the things that are gonna be shared in the workshop, what are some of the ways that you communicate these ideals, behaviors, values to the younger people who you are teaching?
Brittany: Well, I definitely, one thing is that as the teacher in the classroom, I acknowledge the power and balance, and I use that to my advantage at times, right? Like, I am ultimately the last word in the classroom. And like, I want my classroom, our classroom to be community based, right? So everything that we do, we are going to move through.
Knowing that everything we do impacts everyone in the community, right? So our behaviors, how we navigate supplies, things like that, it's all about making sure that everyone in the community is getting what they need in order to be able to be successful. And also a lot of questions. So for kids, you know, like I do acknowledge that I have a perspective and that their perspective may not be the same perspective as mine, right?
And that I will offer them what my perspective has shown me and how the information the information that I give them has kind of shaped that. But it is going to be up to them to kind of shape their own perspective with the information that's being presented in front of us. And by asking them questions.
That I think has been the best way to help them kind of synthesize through what we learn. And so being strategic about what I am asking them and how they are, how I'm asking them to look at the tests that we're reading, the videos that we're watching, the content that I have to teach is how I try to get them to think about things through a justice lens or getting them to think about things through, you know, a climate related worldview and one that leads us to sustainability and one that leads us to justice.
David: so as you're teaching young people, you know, young people who are students in classrooms are still people and like, so this, these examples might be applicable to other contexts when people are working with adults.
Right? When you're introducing concepts of climate justice and climate change to young people, there's not necessarily an argument like rooted in facts that like somebody can argue. Right? And, you know, you've shared that there's not generally a lot of opposition to having those types of conversations, but when we're talking about other justice issues what are some of the opposition that you do come up with and how are you then navigating that?
Brittany: So, one question that I do get a lot is why white people are often portrayed so negatively in our discussions. And I think that it's really important for us to unpack. During class, we often talk about identity. We often talk about culture, and we talk about dominant culture. And like we acknowledge different heritage months and like, well, why do we have Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month?
Why do we have Black History Month? Why do we have a a P I heritage month? Like, why do we have these things? And getting students to think about, well, we are often taught about the many things and the many contributions that white folks have contributed to our modern society. But what we don't often talk about is different people of various groups, right?
We often talk about the history of colonialism and you know, American Independence in a way that is celebratory and is, you know, kind of glorifying, but like for who, who is celebrating, you know, the Birth of America, how were people, how were various groups impacted by these historical events? So you can present historical events in a very factual way.
Mm-hmm. And just make sure that students are open to understanding that what was beneficial for one group of people was not necessarily beneficial from an another group of people, or what we thought of as progress or what we think of as progress may not be thought of as what, as progress to another group of people.
And also just acknowledging that there are various worldviews, there are various ways of moving through the world and understanding that. The values of the dominant culture are not the right values. They are just the values that the dominant culture holds. And so let's acknowledge and let's also teach about other value systems that are around.
And so I think that that is what's been really helpful in making connections for students, especially like in a historical context, right? Because like I teach about climate change in social studies more than I do in science. Mm-hmm. Because it's really a story about human history more so than I think people understand.
And so social studies is really a great subject where you can have students having these conversations about historical events and how it impacted living things on the planet.
David: I'm curious why students who are white don't make the connection. And you might not be able to answer this, I'm not trying to put you in, in a white body, but like why they're not able to make the connection between like, hey, we're talking about white people in a quote unquote negative way. The same way that we're talking about people in general and the behaviors that we do to harm the environment in like that same like negative way.
It's not about like you're bad people, but it is behavior that you engage in and systems that we participate in are causing this harm. Like not being able to make that separation. Like is that something that you've experienced is that a connection that your students have made or have had trouble making?
Brittany: Yeah, I think that some have had trouble kind of making that connection. I also think that students are often, especially you know, this young, I think they're often not able to really disconnect their themselves. Mm-hmm. Right. So like we are talking about, because ultimately we're not talking about every single white person in Europe when we're talking about colonialism, right?
Mm-hmm. What we are talking about is colonial institutions, and we are talking about players within that, right? Who like benefited from that. And I think what is difficult is being able to separate their own identities with those people while we're talking about the history, because it is often white students who have those questions.
And the students of color that I exper, that I teach are often on like the opposite end of the spectrum. You know, where students are kind of like, yeah, they like did these things and made these decisions and we're all just supposed to be grateful about the way things are. And have, because their identities are more rooted in the erasure.
Then they are then able to better make that connection. So I think it's difficult for students who, you know, who are in white bodies to be able to separate like their own identities from the identities of the figures that we talk about sometimes.
David: Yeah, and I mean, you and I and everybody listening to this, both know all know that, right?
It's not just like children who have difficulty breaking breaking down those connections between individuals and institutions, but it is like something that is a. Really important to provide space to, to do that. I'm curious, you know, you, you're somebody who has experienced restorative justice work through the lens of Amplify rj.
And I don't know what your formal introduction to restorative justice work has been, but are there any other connections between the way that you approach your classroom approach, the way that you move through the world that have been influenced by restorative justice philosophy, practices, ways of being?
Brittany: Well I first was put onto rj, like when I first became an educator. Mm-hmm. And understanding that, you know, how suspensions and expulsions impact students. And so I think that like
the biggest thing that has really impacted how I move through the world is just how I want to connect with people I spend time with. How I want to build relationships with those people. And it's just punitive measures. Don't do that, right? Like just constantly kind of doling out punishments for students who are not complying, doesn't build those quality relationships that you truly need in order for them to want to learn from you.
And so I just have really just wanted to make sure that I am connecting with the human beings that I am in contact with, and making sure that those strong connections are what dictate how I communicate with them, how I guide them, and how I have them think about. Their choices or their actions and how it impacts other people.
So it's really just like relationships, connection. Yeah. And wanting to really have strong bonds with people around me.
David: so then how has that manifested in your classroom?
Brittany: I have, once I've really started focusing on that, like building relationships with students and not building compliance in students, I have noticed that I have had much stronger relationships with students than I've ever had, like, in my career.
David: I guess like what would it look, what would it have looked like before and what would does it look like now?
Brittany: Okay. So I mean, what it looks like now is. Lots of just open-ended discussions. Like we talk a lot about just random things. I think like having our classroom environment be more flexible, right?
Like providing students with flexibility. It also just kind of looks like me being able to be authentic with students and not necessarily having to like put on this show or like this face, I think before it kind of looked like straight lines and, you know, quiet working time and you know, more like structured and like efficient transitions and things like that.
Where now I think I've kind of embraced flexibility and embraced, you know, students, everybody kind of doing what they need to do in this moment and. We still are able to get what we need to get done.
David: Yeah. When I hear that and when others hear that, it might sound like, oh, your classroom's just a free for all.
Everybody's doing whatever they want at whatever time. And you know, they're critics are restorative justice and there's a new article every other month it seems, or every other week rather, where like, there are all these cri critics of restorative justice specifically as it manifests in schools what they're saying is restorative justice doesn't work.
And what I think is happening is like there are a bunch of people being super permissive and not restorative. And so how do you build the, maybe not like the rigid walls and lines and structures, but how do you build the environment for this is how we want to be together. And within that, they're all the ways that you can be
Brittany: well at the beginning of the year is definitely like, We kind of talk about, and I, I actually learned the strategy that I'm about to mention from going to a workshop with, Brit Hawthorne about building community and like community expectations at the beginning of the year and kind of allowing students to have a voice in that.
Mm-hmm. Right. So it's like we do have expectations. We are here to learn. We are at school. There are things and there are objectives that we have to meet. But what are the best ways that work for you? Or like thinking about how are the actions that we. Take in the classroom, how are they impacting other people?
And so how can we make sure to collaboratively build these expectations so that everyone in this classroom environment gets what they need in order to be successful. And so I think that like, and you know, it's a process, right? Like we build our expectations at the beginning of the year. We revisit them throughout times of the year and like, we reflect how is this going?
How do you feel? What is something that's been challenging for you? Or, you know, things like that. And allowing students to have a voice in and an opinion about their learning environment. I think oftentimes it's so top down, right? The teacher dictates this is what I wanna see in the classroom. This is what needs to happen because we need to get these things done.
And students don't feel any type of autonomy over. Their environment and their education and their learning. And I think especially like in fifth grade, these kids have opinions. They know about themselves, they know what they like, they know what their strengths are, and we want to be able to work with that.
We want to be able to build that and we don't wanna have to kind of like hammer the square peg into the circle type situation. Mm-hmm. We want every student to be able to fit into a learning model that works for.
David: Yeah. And while, you know, the, one of the first things that you shared is like, you know, abolitionist being a, you know, core part of who you are, while we're not burning down the institution of schooling, right.
That is your job, that is your livelihood. Like, what are the things that we can do to give life within these death making institutions? And, you know, thank you for that model, right? Making community agreements where there's so much collaboration between everybody in the classroom or whatever community you're defining is, is such an important part.
You know, it falls within the, the trunk of the restorative justice tree that we talk about at Amplify rj. But yeah, thank you so much for, for that model. I'm curious, right. Climate justice teacher and then mom is the last part of your IG handle. How is that manifested in the way that you parent? Well,
Brittany: it's a lot of.
I like defined the way I parent as authentic and open. I, when I was raised, there were certain aspects of the way that I was raised where like there were certain questions that were just kind of off limits. Mm-hmm. And I don't, I don't necessarily want that for my kids because I felt like that kind of hindered what I knew about the world.
And then it like, impacted the decisions that I made once I became an adult and once I had more independence and freedom. Yeah. Like what kind of questions? Questions around bodies and drugs and you know, things like that. Like things that are very like taboo tattoos. Mm-hmm. You know, things like that.
Like, it was just kind of like, you're so young, why are you asking me about that? And it's just like, well, cause people talk about it. And so I always want my kids to. Be aware of things that are happening around them and be able to feel like they are equipped with the information that they need in order to be able to make a decision that isn't like, oh, my mom's gonna kill me if she finds out.
Mm-hmm. You know what I mean? And like, I also have always wanted to be the parent where if my kid is in trouble because they're doing something, they've made a decision or made a choice that is not necessarily the best and has put themselves in a compromising position, I do not want them to avoid calling me because they are afraid of my reaction.
Mm-hmm. I want them to call me because they know that I will support them and that I will help them navigate through the situation. And then, you know, I also am still big on accountability. Right. But I also don't want them to feel like they are not able to experience the world because I am shielding them from everything.
Yeah. Every and so every. Yeah, go ahead.
David: Every time someone says the word accountability on this podcast, we have them define it. So when you say accountability for your children, what does that mean for you?
Brittany: It means like taking responsibility for the choices that you've made and realizing that those choices have impact, whether it's on you, whether it's on someone around you, whether it's on someone in the family and how do we then move forward so that we are not continuing to inflict the same harm or how can we learn from this moment so that when we do inflict the same harm, we are able to try our best to kind of repair that.
David: Yeah. Yeah. I think like, you know, every time that we have someone define it, right, it's really important that we, we say this because in all the things that are happening in our culture, the calls for accountability are often just veiled calls for punishment, right? People like want the harm acknowledged for sure.
And they want like revenge or retribution for the person who did the bad thing, right? And we know that like that's not necessarily going to be conducive to behavior change, right? Sometimes behavior change happens after punishment happens, but I wouldn't say that behavior change happens because punishment happens, right?
We want to make sure that people are given like the tools, the support that they need in order to make those changes. And then like, Hey, you said you were gonna make these changes. Like, are you making these changes? If you're not making these changes, what is the additional support that you need to make these changes?
Right? And like continuously follow up, right? So yeah, just that piece on accountability, it's easier to do within the context of. Your, your students or your, your children who you are with on the daily, and you have those relationships. When we zoom out and have like larger conversations or PE with people who we are not in as close relationship with, like, sometimes that gets a little bit more tricky.
And, you know, with, in the context of amplify rj, we're always talking about how, you know, restorative justice is not just about that repair of harm and repair relationship, but like, how are we proactively building and maintaining those relationships rooted in equity and trust to prevent future harm?
Like, it's such a big part of it. So when you're talking about, you know, being the parent who your kids will call because they know that you'll support them that's that building those, those, those everyday things that you're doing to build those relationships. Are there any other like restorative justice type things that are happening within the context of your parenting that come to mind?
Brittany: Yeah, like I, so when I grew up I often, like when I was in trouble, I either got spanked. Or I was grounded. That's it. Those are like, that's the only two outcomes I would usually get. And they didn't really do anything. Like I maybe changed my behavior out of fear for it happening again. But not necessarily understanding like the root of why.
And so this is kind of where, like me being an educator and me being parent definitely intersect like at home. Mm-hmm. So like, I'll give you an example of just like how I am trying to kind of like build critical thought in my kids without just like the punishment aspect. And so, like my son for example, He's 13.
He plays baseball and this is his first year playing travel baseball. And travel baseball is like a very intense, like, it's very cost intensive. It's also very time and energy intensive. And like his equipment costs, like the total of, just like his bats and gloves alone is probably like $1,500.
Like, it's a very expensive habit. And so, he had some trouble where, you know, he just like wasn't being honest about working out and doing some of the things that he's like responsible for doing. And so what I did is I just taught, I kind of gave him a lesson on the difference between rights and privileges.
So I had him like, look up the diction definition of rights. Look up the definition of privileges. And I said, okay, you as a person, as a human being that I have chosen to bring. Onto the earth. What are some rights that you have that I like have to give you? Right? So he had to like make a list. Food, clothes, shelter, so on education, so on, so forth.
And then I said, okay, now privileges, right? Now that we've defined privileges and we know that those aren't basic needs that you need in order to live. There are things that you get access to because I have access to them. What are some privileges? So he's like, okay, I got my own room. I got a tv, I got a Xbox, I play any sport.
You know, I play football, basketball, baseball, this, this, and that. And I said, okay, what are the responsibilities that you have as a member of our household community? What are some responsibilities that you have? So he started listing off his chores, his workouts and things like that. I said, okay, how good.
I want you to evaluate yourself on how well you feel like you meet those responsibilities. Being reminded without someone, doing them for you, without being corrected, so on and so forth. So he gave himself a pretty low score and I said, you have to be honest, right? In order for this to work, in order for this reflection to be meaningful.
And so he gave himself a low score and I said, okay, so now let's think about this, right? And I then I had him calculate literally like how many working hours it costs for his dad to pay, for his equipment, to pay for taking him to tournaments and all of this. And so he like came up with this tallying, it's like, okay, this is how much it costs just for you to play baseball.
That's not our mortgage, that's not groceries, that's not gas. That's not even like the amount of time, right? So just like, let's marinate on that and let's think about that for a minute. About how much time and energy is just to cultivate this skill set or this hobby that you have, right? So now how are we going to go forward and like, how do you think that you can improve on meeting these responsibilities that we are asking you to meet as your parents?
How can you like better meet them? So he's like, well, maybe I'm focusing too much on like my tv, my Xbox, and this and this. I said, okay, so what are we gonna do? Okay, we're going to take away some of these privileges so that we can focus on building these responsibilities. And when we build our capacity to do these responsibilities, we can earn these privileges back.
And so that's kind of how we navigate. Like it's not just like, oh, you did this thing so now I'm taking away your Xbox. Right? It's a process of really helping them understand that the Xbox is a privilege. You do not need a Xbox to survive. You don't even need a Xbox to be happy. Right, but you are responsible for these things as a member of our household and our community, because that's what it means to be a part of a community.
So we're going to focus on these things right now, and then you can get the cherry on top and the frosting on the cake. Once you got the cake baked and you're fo you're able to implement those things more regularly and do those things more
David: responsibly. Yeah. Thank you so much for the, the depth of, of that share.
I think, you know, when I think about parenting, right, especially from the perspective of somebody who is a parent of a one-year-old now Like applying these principles in a culture that is not really conducive to that is, is so difficult. So hard, right? Not the way that I grew up. And of course, you know, parenting norms change over, you know, the decades since I was that age.
But I think about the manifestation of like getting your xbox taken away, like looking very different depending on like the conditions, right? I'm someone who is not like wholesale opposed to like, suspension from school, right? And that's controversial, like as a restorative justice practitioner, right?
The actual function of suspension is that, you know, you are taken out of your learning environment. You are not allowed back onto campus. Sometimes people just need time and space from each other, right? And if we're having a conversation about like, you need time and space away from this so you can work on these things and we're giving you support to work on these things.
I think like that is a like a, The healthiest version of what like a school suspension can be, right? You take away somebody's Xbox because you didn't do their dishes, they didn't do the dishes, or they didn't pick up their room. Without having that conversation, without showing the importance of like being a contributing member of this household without giving them the support to be like, Hey, we love you so much.
We want you to be able to do the things that you want to do. The the things that bring you joy. These are the things that it takes for this to be able to happen. What are the things that you think that you need to do? Oh, what are the, the distractions? What are the things that we can help you focus?
What are the ways that we can help you focus on doing the things that you need to do? Having that conversation in a collaborative way is a much more restorative way of saying like, no more Xbox for the next, you know, however long, right? The, the end result of. You're not playing. Xbox is the same, right?
But the way that you got to that does a lot for the relationship, right? Building trust, building building in accountability, right? And then as a parent, like are you following up on the things that you're gonna say that you're going to do, right? Like, are you gonna give them the support to do the thing that they say that you were gonna do?
If you catch them, like sneaking in some Xbox, like, are you just gonna let that go? Or like, are you gonna actually follow up on making sure that, hey, what did we just talk about? And, you know, the, those conversations are what what lead to us having these communities where people have the skills to, you know, navigate conflict, navigate harm, build, and strengthen relationships you did in equity and trust in a good way.
So thank you so much for that. That example I'm just, my mind's racing with all the possibilities of any of the numerous things that my, my kid will get into over the years, and I know, right? Just like restorative justice practice, the everyday nuances of parenting you know, you learn as you go, but like being rooted in these values, being in communication with your parenting partners about, you know, what are our expectations of each other, what are the, our expectations for the kids that we're taking care of.
So, so important. Any other parenting like to, like, I know you've got 13 plus years of experience, but like, are there any others that like, come to mind?
Brittany: I mean, I will say too that like there are times where, you know, I raise my voice. There are times where I'm not very patient and so I do want to just like be rooted in the fact that like I, this is not.
All the time. There are times where, you know, I'm tired or I'm frustrated, or whatever. And I think that it's important for parents to be willing to apologize to their kids when they come out of themselves or when they aren't being as patient. Because like ultimately, you know, like my youngest is four, and so that's little.
And so, you know, like it's really, and he's starting to, he's just now trying to figure out his emotions and being able to express how he's feeling with words. And so I think that it's important, you know, as an adult to model that. So, you know, if I get upset or if I raise my voice, I explain like, okay.
Sometimes when people get really angry or really frustrated, they do things like yell and that can be a little scary or that can be something, you know, and like, that's not my favorite way to communicate. But I also have had to communicate this. Direction or whatever, like five or six times. And so I'm feeling very frustrated by the amount of times I'm having to communicate this with you.
So how can we work on that? How can we, you know, so like I do, I, I want parents out there to real, like know that, you know, the whole concept of gentle parenting or whatever, you know, whatever you wanna call it, where we're trying to build, you know, better connections with our kids and like be better communicators with our kids is that we are not going to be perfect and we are not always going to do the restorative thing, but we can have a debrief after, we could talk about it after.
And so being able to kind of better understand each other and then going forward I think is really important. And like reactions. I think one thing that I really try to hold onto is when my kids tell me something, Or they ask me something that makes me uncomfortable or makes me like angry or something like that.
I have to hold on to my reaction and I have to focus on listening to what it is that they're trying to communicate to me. Because if I just react, then they're not gonna be comfortable coming to me in the future. Right. And like, I want my kids to come to me when they need something. I don't want them to be afraid to do that.
And so being able to listen and take time to process before reacting and responding, I think is also really important.
David: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. The when we think about, you know, feelings and needs that people have when it comes. Conflict and harm, right? Like that time and space is, is so important. Right? And sometimes if it's even just a breath, right?
That can be really helpful in helping us navigate navigate all of that. We've talked around this for much of this conversation, but in your own words, define restorative justice.
Brittany: Ooh. So when I think of restorative justice, I really wanna like dissect what those words mean, right?
Like when I think of what it means to restore. And so restoring means strengthening my connection with the earth, strengthening my connection with nature, and becoming more rooted in our interconnectedness with nature and all things that have life. And so restorative justice to me is really navigating the world in a way that builds positive connections and builds strong connections.
The life around me no matter what shape that life turns into. So whether it's other humans or animals or plants or you know, soil, it's really just about connecting to all of the things that provide us with life.
David: Yeah. Thank you. As you've been doing this work, however you want to broadly define this justice work what's been an oh shit moment, either a moment where you like messed up and like wish you did something differently, or like, ah, shit.
Yeah, I did that and it was awesome.
Brittany: My most recent like, ah, shit was I helped my school plan, their first ever Black History month event, and. I wrote this excerpt about blackness and the diaspora and the beauty and like of the black diaspora, and watching some seventh graders read it in front of the community and just how that was received and just how the event as a whole brought our community together and the gratitude that our black community members felt, our caregivers and our students.
That filled me with so much joy and just satisfaction of being able to have that space for them that hasn't been had before at our school.
David: Yeah, yeah. That's awesome. You get to sit in circle with four people, dead or alive. Who are they and what is the question you ask the circle?
I think one of those people would have to be my grandfather. another person It would probably be
like other historical figures that have like throughout their life. So maybe like this is, I feel like those might sound cliche, but like Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey, like, I want to know how they were able to find, how are you able to find peace and joy and happiness in a world that feels so chaotic?
Mm. And that we often feel so burdened by what we witness around us. Like how do you find peace and joy in your daily life while doing this work?
David: How do you find peace and joy? Brittany
Brittany: taking walks, going outside, riding
David: W R I t i n g or r i d i n g, right?
Brittany: Yeah. W r yeah,
David: yeah, yeah. Last two questions. Who's one person that I should have on this podcast, and as a caveat, you have to help me get them on? Ooh.
Brittany: Hmm. I think maybe somebody from like black girl environmentalist organization or like Leah Thomas, I, she is, wrote the book Intersectional Environmentalism. Mm-hmm. And her connection between climate, like outside of the realm of education, like that connection between climate justice and like restorative justice, I've learned so much.
Yeah. From her.
David: Yeah. As you're saying that I'm sure you've read this book, and I don't know if you have any connects, but like Robin Wall Kilmer and braiding Sweetgrass. Oh, yes. Yeah. It's like, I don't know that you have any ends with her, but like, oh, like for this conversation about like restorative justice, indigenous roots this work, the ways that we can continue to learn from the earth.
Robin Wall Kilmer is the person that came to mind, but yes, Leah Thomas. I would love, I I don't know that book. But you said intersectional environmentalism.
Brittany: I think it's, hold on. I think it's intersectional environmental list,
David: so intersectional environmentalists, how to dismantle systems of oppression to protect people on the planet. Damn. Okay. All right. So Leah Thomas, you've been tagged. Looking forward to you helping me get her over here. I know we've got the workshop coming up on Saturday, April 15th, 9:00 AM Pacific, where you know, Britney's gonna go in more depth of talking about how you can teach about climate justice and education you know, at the intersection of like restoring our relationship with the earth.
But where else can people support you in your work, in the way that you wanna be supported?
Brittany: You can find me on Patreon at patreon.com/teachermomchronicles. And you can also find me on Instagram at climate justice teacher, mom, beautiful. And
David: all those will be linked in the show notes or description wherever you're listening to this podcast.
Thank you so much, Brittany, for your time, your story, your wisdom. We'll be back next week with another person living this restorative justice life. Until then, take care of y'all.