This Restorative Justice Life

56. Circles, Capitalism, and Community w/ Becky McCammon

October 14, 2021 David Ryan Castro-Harris Season 2 Episode 2
This Restorative Justice Life
56. Circles, Capitalism, and Community w/ Becky McCammon
Show Notes Transcript

Becky McCammon is a circle keeper, coach, and collaborator and former restorative practice program coordinator at Saint Paul Public Schools. She loves haiku poems, effusive text messaging, and, most especially, having been a middle and high school English teacher for 14 years.

You will meet Becky McCammon (1:32) and hear about how she got started in restorative justice (6:14) and her experience in circles (12:50). She shares her experience in moments of resistance (23:33) and she discusses community building, compensation, and capitalism (34:44). Finally, she answers the closing questions (52:52).

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David (he/him)  
So, Becky Welcome to this restorative justice life. Who are you?

Becky McCammon  
That was a dramatic like, physicality to the question. Um, who am I? Oh, I'm super in progress. Perhaps what comes to mind in the first draft form is that I am newly restoratively unemployed. I was a part of St. Paul public schools for 17 years, and most recently, the last five years as their restorative practice district coordinator. And then the sighted, inspired by what circle affirms for me that I have value outside of circle and outside of institutions or formal employment so I am someone restoratively unemployed, who's newly in a lot of sort of emerging relationships with other schools and folks.

David (he/him)  
Who are you?

Becky McCammon  
I am someone inclined to semi colons, and colons, and complex compound sentences stemming from 14 years as an English teacher. And also I think someone trying to always find love language, speak from love language. Are you someone who wants to, wants the reassurance of a hair binder on my wrist if my hair isn't already back, and the gentleness and care of elastic waisted pants

Becky McCammon  
newly someone who feels Okay, having a statement earrings in this new way of embracing It's okay if someone notices me. 

David (he/him)  
Who are you? 

Becky McCammon  
I'm Quinn and Lily's mom and Quinn and Lily because I'm an adoptee from Korea are my first biological relatives that I'm in close story with. So being their mom, and their racial mirror is a big heart deal. 

David (he/him)  
Who are you?

Becky McCammon  
 Ah, I am the daughter of two biological parents that I have never met in person, but who I owe breath and life to. And then the daughter of two fallible white folks who adopted me in Minnesota, and who I will, I suppose always be on a journey of loving, forgiving, letting go that cycle with them?

David (he/him)  
Who are you?

Becky McCammon  
I am the hopeful dot dot dot any ellipses for myself, and I hope for and with other people.

David (he/him)  
And finally, who are you

Becky McCammon  
I believe I'm in the good work of loving and being who I am in circle outside of circle, and a kind of mirrored braided connection so that there isn't, I don't know, too much difference in what I'm like, or how I feel in circle, and what I'm like and how I feel outside of circle.

David (he/him)  
Thank you so much for all that sharing. We're gonna get into a lot of those intersections of who you are over the next little bit. I'm really grateful that you're taking the time to be with us. But it's always good to check in at the beginning. So to the fullest extent that you want to answer the question, how are you?

Becky McCammon  
I'm paying attention to how I am and what is true false multiple choice answers and all this stuff in between. So that's a little bit about how I am. Do I get to ask you who are you seven times?

David (he/him)  
We're not going to do that for every for every question that I asked you, but partially because you know many of the people who listen to podcasts know a lot about me, but specifically this question right?

David (he/him)  
 You said that you've been doing restorative justice work formally within St. Paul public schools for the last five years, but You've probably been doing restorative justice work much longer before that maybe even before you need those words. And so, from your perspective, how did this work get started for you

Becky McCammon  
I think perhaps, I was an English teacher, because I loved reading and writing more than I cared for the other subjects. So I knew I wanted to be in work professionally, that was relational. And English was the subject that seemed to have the most flexibility. And then man, I love that. And I also then on the side at school was leading the diversity club and what was then a gay straight Alliance and National Honor Society and the newspaper and the literary arts magazine. And so what I really wanted, what I found was, there was, I guess, I can't call them imbalance, but my world just kept expanding so that there were spaces and times where I could be with young people in ways that weren't constricted by a scope and sequence that weren't outlined by standards needed to be achieved and measurable outcomes. And rather, how often did I and young people feel community in school? And how often were we drawn to be together outside of like this three minute passing time, that's just so heavily policed for young people in schools. 

Becky McCammon  
And so I'm not sure when the language arrived. But I think I really just wanted to be a teacher around relationships, I wanted there not to be something that I was strictly held to. And I spent seven years in an alternative learning High School, and that gave me a lot of freedom to practice, because I had the same scholars, maybe from the time they were 16 to 21. Or because young people came to the school with such a legacy of harm in schools, that it was really, really important that my classroom space was meant that they could unlearn and release what school had been the conversations that young people used to maybe experience just outside of the classroom for like 90 seconds, that were meaningful, that those could turn into a 45 minute conversation, or they could be 30 minutes, and everybody that was inside of the classroom understood that needs were being met for that person. So maybe probably since that time, I've sort of hankering for Yes, of course, there is content and good in text and story. But we all bring rich story that we deserve ample time to explore and play with.

David (he/him)  
What was the time or experience that brought you in collision with quote, unquote, restorative justice, or circles, this way of being?

Becky McCammon  
It was in my last few years in the classroom and in middle school, and we're in the midst of contract negotiations between sample federation of educators and St. Paul public schools. And there's a lot of people aren't really holding the talking piece when it comes to communications messaging from either side. Anytime a statement is put into a website, there are some levels of editing and drafting that have happened. And so as a middle school English teacher and a parent of students in the district, like the rhetoric just felt unfair and harmful, particularly from one side of the district,

Becky McCammon  
So I started writing to the school board. But I wanted the other side, I wanted the union to have a sense of who is this educator who is hitting send on words, because I was still very much in the space of whiteness, quantifies and qualifies who can communicate to power, when and how. And so from, from that, Union friend, Nick Faber reached out and asked if we might want to have coffee, and if we might want to talk about who I was and what I was interested in. And that over time, led to being a part of being on the bargaining team to advocate for restorative practices in our contract in St. Paul public schools. And part of that because the union was wise enough to understand what they didn't know at that time. So it's, it's a nice thing when you know what you don't know They had talked to a bunch of cool folks in Chicago and Chicago Public Schools and circle keepers in that area.

Becky McCammon  
 And then they gathered, some of the Twin Cities circle keepers together with the bargaining team. And they didn't know that we shouldn't have tables. But what it did is it placed all of these beautiful souls in a room with me and a mostly white bargaining team for this, this language that was just like a radical shift from oppositional to from, like, accusatory sort of spirit to everything to Jamie Williams naming that this is, this is not about a plan or this isn't about initiative. This is this is about who we are. It's a way of being. how remarkable to imagine that I was fully qualified to be in a kind of space and in a kind of work, but just by being loving and open up to something like that. So that's a meandering part of like, my origin story. Was that more of kind of where you're looking for and a once upon a time line?

David (he/him)  
Yeah, in some ways. Yes. And I'm hoping to get a little bit more specific about, you know, some of the maybe what was your first time in circle.

Becky McCammon  
I feel like it might have been with Kay Prentiss. And that's a I would put that in an italicized might because because my role was the first RJ coordinator for the district. And we were also supported by the National Education Association gave a great public school grant to the union. And so I was half paid for by the union and half by the district. So from the union side of things, I had been in a lot of spaces in places that said, Please, please, please do this with community. Please, please, please don't imagine that we are creating something out of like, Becky here is a box of like tools and a bulletin board and like get RJ going. And instead, it was Becky, there's a lot of folks that you should hold space with, and be a listener and a learner with. And so for the first year restorative practices in St. Paul, we we the organization didn't offer we didn't host any trainings. Instead we invited Kay we invited folks like rash cetera jus we invited folks from American friends Service Committee, Sharon goans, and dominate data go cache, we had community circle keepers come in and hold space for us. So Kay's circle, maybe a circle with Raj, maybe a circle the Minnesota Department of Education, because Nancy has circles, like all over that are in process. So maybe

David (he/him)  
I'm yeah, so within that space, and maybe it wasn't in the space. And if it wasn't, that's okay. What was it about that process, that way of being that really deeply resonated with you?

Becky McCammon  
So arriving at whatever age that was, I came with a history of we all do, I came with a history of story and harms and things that I had compressed and compartmentalised and quieted over the years. And I had have been involved in different therapy relationships over time. And what I remember about those opening awkward therapy, sessions of my life will that it wasn't reciprocal, was clear that that I was the one that was there to be helped, and that there was someone else in the space that was going to help me that was qualified and accredited to help me. And what I experienced in circle is the agency and the power to to be of help to myself, to be of mutual support and care to other people. That that my liberation and that my healing and that my next steps right to exhale, loving myself a little bit more. They happen in spaces where I am both a listener and a confident, but I'm also vulnerably speaking in a dynamic i. So that's what I experienced then and what I continue to experience in circle.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, like so much popular discourse around circles. restorative justice in this work is often about, you know, how do we not suspend kids? How do we not send kids through Ascension or ISS? Or how do we repair the harm? Right? That's a part of it. That's part of it. That's not most of what this work is about. Right. And as you've been doing this work over the last five years in that specific role, right, acknowledging that like this work exists outside of a job title. What were some of the lessons that you've taken from doing this introducing this work in quote, unquote, implementing this work within St. Paul schools,

Becky McCammon  
some of the lessons that I have been, and I believe we have been mistaught that to come to a space to be with other people requires preparation. And the sort of preparation that is about equipments, and appearance and outfitting when I really embrace what other circle keepers have named, and what I tried to emulate, which is that we all arrive at circle just as we are at just the right moment for us. And that is a consistent exercise and invitation and consent, invitation and consent, invitation and consent towards hopeful community. There's so much to reclaim, I believe of a healthy relationship I have with myself. I have said yes to many times, and no, too many times in circumstances and situations that were twisted. There were without genuine consent that didn't involve the agency to pass. So Oh, gosh, the lessons with that, I think, and how that ties to implementation. 

Becky McCammon  
There isn't a traditional efficiency with restorative practices in schools, and there certainly aren't any predictable outcomes that we can put into a particular kind of table the way tables exist right now. Because we've never been witness to. We've never stood and looked at the horizon of like, Oh, this is what justice looks like, in schools. Because circle for me as I'm, and I hope for others as a means for me to love myself differently, to question myself profoundly. But to be in healthy relationship with like that tussle and tug. And I really want our schools to be able to, I just want my babies to go through school loving themselves.

Becky McCammon  
 And there's a whole lot from the time you walk in the door to the time you leave, that moves against that in ritual, in practice, and I feel like circle as a space that makes me think of elementary recess and how tag was like, you know, a thing or an exercise, but usually there was somewhere on the playground, there was like, the safe spot, there was a place where you could that was like your timeouts, like if you needed to tie your shoe, like just race there, and then you're safe, you're not in the game. And circle feels like that space. That we all deserve both educators and students and families. Yeah, there's a lot of meandering in my thoughts, but I embraced that, too. Like I no longer believe. I've heard, I would say hundreds of people in circle, apologize for like, Oh, I just went off on a tangent or like, Oh, I just started rambling. They apologize for the length of what they've said. And what I tried to support is that our sweet minds and hearts have rarely been given the freedom to actually let a new pathway take shape. Because whiteness is so from point A to point B, and start and finish. So

David (he/him)  
yeah. And as much as like I'm working against that is like, how do I ask the questions that tell the linear story about like the lessons that she learned, like on this journey, and like, I embrace all that this is right, as, like I haven't explicitly set it like this as you did and then If this is when we were recording or not, but you know, these conversations are circle like, right? The conversation that we have on this podcast are very lightly edited. But it is a reflection of the experience that you and me are having right now. And so I'm embracing that for all that it is, when you are thinking about like, and I think in this moment, you know, just having transitioned out like, you're able to reflect back a little bit more than you might have been able to in any given moment, or those last five years. When you're thinking about the quote, unquote, implementation, is there another word that you use other than implementation?

Becky McCammon  
So many folks lean into the pairing of implementation science? And I really like implementation artistry.

David (he/him)  
Okay, gotcha. So in the process of artfully implementing inviting people into this work, right, what do you do when there is resistance, right? Because we can describe these practices to people and describe the outcomes that we're hoping to get in, people are generally like, Oh, that sounds like a positive thing, right? And then the practice of embodying this way of being right? often looks, is really challenging, both within the structures that people have been socialized into as students as we went through school as adults, right? And then, as adults who went through teacher training, or admin training, or whatever training for that role that we play, in schools like that are unstable. Like, right? You use, you know, within the frame of whiteness and white supremacy, domination, efficiency, oppression, power hoarding, right? 

David (he/him)  
So the practice of these restorative ways of being is a challenge. What do you do in those moments of resistance?

Becky McCammon  
symbolically, it's really important for me, and I think the the school base, like the restorative practice coordinators in buildings to let to support those voices. Naming fear, naming, is this going to work? naming I don't have time for one more thing naming is this another this too shall pass. 

Becky McCammon  
I want circle and then circle keepers, even in those moments that are really those one on one restorative chats or dialogues? I want, I want them to feel fully heard. Like, I want them to exhaust if if, if that inflated sense of fear, if that inflated sense of bias, if that bloated sense of like it is just too much, and I can't, if that's a balloon, I want circle restorative practitioners, I want the space to hold, like as much of like that balloon empty out as possible. And I don't mean that in. I mean that in the way that when someone has the talking piece in circle, they speak until their breath finishes. And then they pass. And then we have all of those other multiple perspectives that fill the space. Before there's a new question.

Becky McCammon  
 I want what I tried to model what I tried to be in the work was to listen really, really fully, and then come with curiosity. Because the, from my perspective, that if it is air quotes, resistance, if it is a lack of certainty, if it is, I don't know if this will work, there are some really rooted harms related to that. Some really original foundational like stuff that's twined to a person's story. And if I don't show up as someone that looks sounds and feels like I want to hear their story, then I don't. I don't know how they're going to do that for young people. So that's some of what I've sought to model. 

Becky McCammon  
So part of what happened in St. Paul public schools is we did move from consent. The first six schools that were the pilots in year one and 2016, and there are 18 schools that applied but we could only support six that first year. All of them had staff communities that voted and said at a rate of 75% or higher, this is what we want to try. This is what we feel curious about. Absolutely. And of course, like what a yes is in 2016, when you have a new principal in 2018 is complicated. What a yes. is in 2017, when you then have a new restorative justice coordinator in 2018, like it's complicated. Also, just a yes in curiosity is very, very different informed than, oh, my goodness, how am I in this work? I can't, I can't laminate something posted on the wall and imagine that I am in compliance because circle and restorative work isn't about compliance. It's about embrace. It's about flexibility, adaptability. So I, I believe that I did my best to hold people in what I sort of referred to as an empathy scavenger hunt, in a moment with a person as they're sharing their story. Like I take a lot of time to think about I sort of wonder about Where is the woundedness? Where have they not felt seen or heard? where perhaps has there not been radical love and confirmation of how hard they work? Who is never in their circle, really letting them hold the talking piece like I? And then I stay in that relationship as much as is possible, practical and healthy.

David (he/him)  
How do you, how do you, I'm curious if there's a specific example that comes to mind, confidentiality, acknowledge where you like, we're able to, like, move through that with those boundaries acknowledged, right.

Becky McCammon  
So in the first year, what we had one of our principals had a very, and all of our schools were invited and welcome to have their own plant. Because each community is different. Each culture is different, like the developmental windows of the kiddos, and the developmental windows with the adults serving the kiddos is meaningful. So we I remember one principal who, in our opening meeting, and this was before I had practice in circle, this was before I was ever consistently, like, in my mind passing a talking piece to another person. I remember he, part of his practice was to create sort of like a manifesto each year a one pager for his staff. So they understood like, this is who I am, this is my practice. This is this is our vision for the year. So he had a similar kind of like one pager for this is what restorative justice is going to look like in the school. 

Becky McCammon  
And in my mind, I was like, Oh, I think some of this is sideways. And I think perhaps some of this places too much onus and burden on young people. So I had those thoughts. And I had those feelings. And the restorative justice person in the building was also new to the community was a man of color, principal's a white gentlemen. And so I mentioned that as an opening anecdote, because then seven months later, right, as we continue in relationship and learning with one another, because district people are perceived a particular kind of way in every spin any school district, like what a building level person thinks about district folks, comes with a whole lot of stuff, right? So seven months later, though, when I'm back, and I promise, I have seen them in between, but when I'm back, and we're looking towards the new school year, and the new school, your budget, and the new school, your hopes and needs.

Becky McCammon  
That was a moment where that leader and I sat on comfortably where I said, I think you need more staff for this, and we can find the money for you to have more staff. And that principal really meaningfully said, so I'm in a budget season where I have to cut X number of licensed educators. So you're what I'm feeling right now, Becky, is I have to my community will have to experience that we're going to lose licensed educators and you're telling me I can have another restorative justice person. And I'm not quite sure what to do with that. So moments like that, were really important exercises for me to to sit in the like the integrity and the urgency of what anti racist transformational justice work is, and also sit really really tenderly with a leader that has x number of adults that can email him in any moment, right from their hurt, harm, need. And values and the loss of some members of the adult community with the introduction of a new restorative person, like he was holding all of that. 

Becky McCammon  
So I think of us in more recent terms, in more recent years, and the way we can both look back on how I pushed and how he pushed, and how we were able to, like hold each other, in what we understood was true, which is that we really wanted the community to thrive. And we really didn't want the community to misunderstand that the addition of more restorative support and more circle keeping support was not favored over right was not in place of the value of content specialists the value of English or literature. So I guess I think about those moments where how to humanize somebody, it doesn't matter that like, I came into the work, probably misunderstanding that. The principals because of their positional title, and because they are compensated more, that some part of their life is more luxurious. When in fact, for principals, and for many relational leaders in schools, it is in fact, more isolating. And there are very few spaces where they feel like they're in circle, because there's all these other larger circles that are moving around them that they can't actively be a part of, because of human resources and confidentiality and budgets and baloney like that. I am so sorry that I don't remember the origin of the question, but I got in that story.

David (he/him)  
Exactly. It was exactly what was supposed It was exactly what was supposed to be shared. What I'm left thinking about is like, you know, the structure of schools are, like, antagonistic to this, right? It's Nancy's, but like, Circle in the Square, right? Like, how do you bring these ways of being that our circle and fit them into these boxes that are rigid with those restrictions, both on people's time, the ability for a person to legally right, share things? Right, share be vulnerable? Right? And, you know, those structures are there sometimes with I'll say, good reason, but definitely with good intention. Right? And how do we, how do we navigate those things? I think the the question is twofold, right? Like, the ongoing question that everyone is dealing with is like, how do we continue to navigate those things when these values our intention, but I think the other question that is just as important to ask is like, what is the community that we can be building that will like help this way of being thrive?

Becky McCammon  
Another example that comes to mind is that on the pilot sites in St. Paul, that were designated as spaces to explore and practice and implement restorative practices, all of them received $150,000 for three years, which supported staffing, professional development training. And one tender spot in that was that absolutely all educators, all people who come to a restorative experience should be compensated for their time.

Becky McCammon  
And there's something radical about people say often in circle, I believe, like, I didn't know that I needed this. And so how to how to sit in that space between Okay, well, if we offer drop in affinity circles, if we offer drop in circles of support, if we offer circles that hold like we were going to, you know, explore and play with justice on both sides by the amazing doctor, when I think our circle keepers sometimes felt the tension around Oh, so we have to pay educators to be there, when rather they really wanted the educators to want to be there, with or without compensation. And that comes from the fear of when the money went away, right? Because the money is, there's a pool of money that people can draw from but it is much less convenient. 

Becky McCammon  
So we know the work isn't tied to money, but access to people access to their time because their time is meaningful does require money. So what to do about like, when I go to the NAC RJ conferences, and there's like a gajillion breakout sessions about how to do this work when you have no money. And I end in St. Paul, we had money to support people coming together tomorrow, I'll be with a school, and a day long retreat, and everyone will turn in a timesheet for being there. And it'll be good for their soul and good for their practice. And they're also getting compensated. So how about the complexity of? Well, that's a principle that made sure that that was in their budget at all principals, and not all buildings can. Because having your whole staff together for a day is actually quite expensive. So it's, it's really complicated. It's very hard. Because I'm sorry.

David (he/him)  
Oh, yeah. And I also wanted to slide in there, what you're being compensated to facilitate that is probably on the lower. We pay, like, someone who is sometimes in similar roles, like, that's not what I think I'm worth, right? And, yeah, there there are, there are levels to that, of course, and, you know, we live in a capitalist world. That requires that we function within it, to get other people to get all of our needs met, right? For for housing, shelter, food.

Becky McCammon  
I have a lot of, I don't know if I'd call it quite guilt, but um, lessons I hold in my mind of when I started in the position, I had been told, anecdotally, that circle keepers tended to ask for $100 an hour. And I remember thinking, Okay, well, I can only make that work on the while, we figured it on both sides. But at the time, it was complicated, because the union was not paying anybody to facilitate anything at at $100 an hour, nor was the school district, right. So all these systems that sort of really undervalue and under pay folks for their work. And, and so that the, the twinges is I have now around, oh my gosh, I wish it could have been like three 400 like just a lot more. Because the artistry of holding with care, like being hard present with people is, is really artful. And a whole lot of work and and so I want it to be compensated, but then that starts a whole ripple effect of I also want our educators to be compensated differently. And on and on, but I wish, I wish there was a way I could go back to all of the circle keepers we worked with, and just like drop off a package of like, balancing funds like, Well, I didn't know and I was operating from the idea that like, I just got paid 22 more cents an hour this year on my contracts, like anyway, yes.

David (he/him)  
Yeah. To your point about, you know, this is these are like these deep foundational wounds. Right? I don't know how to categorize capitalist. Oh, capitalism isn't ism. There you go. I was gonna say I wasn't sure how to capitalize it with like, like, categorize it with, like, racism, sexism. But yeah, capitalism isn't an ism right. When we, when we think about, like, those systemic things is like, we operate in a world in which those exists. And like, doing restorative work is about being anti racist. It is about being like anti sexist, or, you know, feminist. Whichever word fits, fits better, right? In like this anti capitalism piece is often left out of the conversation. And I know we often talk around it, just given the limits of the communities that we operate in, because like we all understand, right, there are limited funds. How do we fix that restoratively because like, 

David (he/him)  
I was having this conversation with Jorge Santos, who I'll just shout out as someone who was on the spot was on this podcast at the beginning of this calendar year. He shared the you know, the graphic of the people watching the baseball game, right? Where it's like equality versus equity. And then on his there is reality, right, where you have three people standing on boxes, and there The fence right? There was one person was standing in a ditch. So they could barely see even like, the fence, right? There was one person who was standing on a box, who could just like barely see the fence. And then there was another person who is you couldn't even see the person because like the boxes were just stacked up so high. Right? And my question to him was, you know, so what are we going to do with those boxes? Because, like, the money in the world exists, right? asking nicely, doesn't work. Violence doesn't necessarily work either. Like, so are we knocking down those boxes? Are we asking nicely for some more boxes, and I think like, you know, what that graphic leaves out because you know, there are limits to a graphic is, you know, the amount of people who are in the categories of like, just being able to see over the fence, and who are, you know, in the ditch, are 90% of the population, right, 90 plus percent of the population and with those people who have all the boxes, all of the resources that such a small segment of the population into, like, capitalism has created that. How do we restoratively remedy that?

Becky McCammon  
I always sit with those images and all the iterations that have happened over time, like, I just don't care about a baseball game, either. 

David (he/him)  
True.

Becky McCammon  
 And so I wonder what, I just want the invitation because we know graphics have limit like, What? What do people want to see. And so it reminds me of so in my ages, work with history matters, race matters, Justice matters, language matters towards, like the possibility of our future mattering differently, like I want. What does that look like to be able to, like, this is the thing I want to see.

Becky McCammon  
And so that's the journey I, I, when I, when I decided to quit St. Paul public schools, I knew I'm a single mom, I'm like, I've been responsible for keeping myself and children in clothes that fit, and she was that fit, and that don't embarrass my children as much as possible. And, you know, all that business, so and I don't, the work is not for me to be an as to be the circle keeper in a whole bunch of different spaces. The work is not for me to be an expert, it's like, it's really, it's quirky, to even sit in that, like, people refer to me as sort of the as a consultant. And I guess that works as a verb, like what I'm doing, but I also i, it's what I want to vision towards, or to be able to create a restorative cooperative, because the Twin Cities, for example, has a ton of small nonprofits, RJ themed spaces, right, that are serving this school district, are serving this county. And, and what I've come to understand is sitting in the cushion cushion of public education, where I had a salary and benefits and retirement was watching those organizations struggle.

Becky McCammon  
You've got, you know, Nancy sent out recently, like, postings for working in these three school districts for these kind of days. And I think it would amount to like $25 an hour, like, gosh, so really, once circle keepers and restorative practitioners and the folks in the Twin Cities, community and beyond, but most locally Twin Cities community, to be able to come together to nourish one another, to be practicing with one another, because the educator in me knows that I am better, for more healthy, more grounded for every circle that I'm in that I'm not the circle keeper. It's superduper important for me to be in spaces where I am in practice, and passing the talking piece in there is and I could go through the whole experience without the responsibility or the sense of I'm the one that should say the next prompt. And I don't think spaces get that because they are like they need every single penny and need to take all of the jobs or do take all of the jobs, right and these different spaces where they're getting $25 an hour. I don't think that answered like what do we do about how do we reclaim restorative justice from capitalism, because my mind goes other places and there are colleges that are in the area that are thinking about and this is what the transformative justice center right at UC Davis is doing to like, how do we support educators in just ways that they go into schools with these practices and this sort of sense of self and agency. But I feel hopeful about colleges thinking about their pre service teachers that way. And that's not often who in schools is supporting when really significant harm happens, or relationships are broken. So there's that too.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, definitely a yes and this work needs to happen on multiple levels, right? Should this be a part of all pre service teachers education? Absolutely right. Shout out to the transformative Justice Center, shout out to like the folks at Eastern Mennonite University shout out to like, you know, the spaces where teacher education programs like require, like, as gross as it is to say, like restorative practice classes like it is what it is. Like, that's helpful. And like, these systems are still not aligned to restorative practices happening? Well. I'm curious. And I think I imagine that you're still growing in your understanding of what your role is. But like, having just made this transition out, having some time over the summer to reflect, what do you see your role as right now in building, you know, safe spaces in schools for children to love themselves and be loved by their community?

Becky McCammon  
I want to, I want to embrace where there is, yes, energy. And, as often as possible, as much as I can, I want to do that in spaces where there are leaders of color that want to lead this work, and they and their system isn't in a place to offer them what I like the radical sort of professional hug that a principle that a district leader that an educator needs and deserves, when you're trying to unlearn and learn and embrace all at once. So I this year, I'll continue working with there's a group out of education of Minnesota, their racial equity advocates. So cohorts of them work together over multiple years, and their journey as anti racist educators. And these cohorts for the last four years have start with the day in circle with me. And then there's sort of some revisiting of circle time with me. And so that's a commitment I have to stay in relationship to those folks. Because by majority, based on the picture of Minnesota, and what our teaching staff looks like, these are these are white folks who really do want to genuinely like be in the work and be in their story. And it's an everywhere around them. White supremacy is the familiar air, the familiar ritual. So that's a part of like my hope. 

Becky McCammon  
Yesterday morning was a lovely retreat with us in a school where they have a new leader of color, who I've set in circle with over the past few years. And so being there with him and for him, is significant next week, again, hanging out at another elementary school that has a leader of color and other Korean adoptee like it, it has been to a 45 minute commute across the Twin Cities, which for me is a thing. But I will I will travel to leaders of color to be with them in what is a quite natural and unfortunate reality of being perhaps more isolated, and more alone in the work and who they see in the hallways every day. So that's a piece of where I see myself and working with a school district in Iowa, and I'm really, really excited. They just hired their first restorative justice coordinator. So I'm really excited about like they have me calendar to do a lot of different trainings and consultation, but I'm super excited to like walk with their new leader and to support him radically, and how the system holds him. Because my job evolved a ton. over five years, year one, I supported six schools and then nine schools and then 12 schools and then 18 schools and then 20 and then 25 capitalism and white supremacy is always going to let folks like me and others. keep going and keep doing good work. I want there to be ways that as the work with him, and with his district grows, that the support grows, that there are more people that are like his budget grows. But there are other circle keepers that are supporting him. I want all that to grow. I'm super excited to hang out with the Science Museum and do circle training with their folks. They've got the race exhibits, and for years now when their race exhibit started, they train folks in circles so that folks after going through the exhibit can be in a space to process. So those are some of the like the Yes, spaces like that feel good?

David (he/him)  
Yeah, yeah, we'll plug it here. If people are listening to this, and it was like, Yes, I want Becky's support. restorative, I want Becky's radical support, right? restorativelyyours.com. Link in the description is where you can get in touch with her.

Becky McCammon  
That's very, very kind. I didn't mean to sound so promotional, but I am excited about these are all relationships I can set to I said yes to. It's great. Yeah, yeah, it's good stuff.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, beautiful. I want to transition us into like the questions that I tend to ask everyone. In some ways, it's meant to be a speed round, but it very rarely is. And we've talked around this idea over the last a little bit, but for you to find restorative justice.

Becky McCammon  
Radical welcome, to be unhealthy relationship with myself, to be in healthy relationship with others, to be in a reparative reclaiming relationship with history and practices towards a kind of paying attention that is balanced and shared, and responsibility. How many semicolons and colons

David (he/him)  
I wasn't counting, check the transcript. Shout out to at Elyse for making sure that we have transcripts for these :)

David (he/him)  
as you've been doing this work, what's been like an oh shit moment? And what did you learn from it?

Becky McCammon  
I think, a moment that I sit in with so much regard for, like, how stinky it is, is that folks of color have rarely been seen, valued, and like held in steady, supportive, accountable professional relationships. So my journey has been blessed that the majority of the folks in St. Paul who were restorative practice leaders in buildings were folks of color and amongst that most were brilliant and wise in ways that colleges didn't quantify. And so the scope of how they have been, I believe folks have been acclimated to like, how do I belong in this space? And do I have worth in schools even in the face of like being utterly brilliant like and just amazing of heart? 

Becky McCammon  
Like that's the stuff where I can catch my breath because as a Korean adoptee I there's a proximity to whiteness that I have always been a part of and then getting becoming a licensed teacher right more closeness more like familiar lexicon and whiteness. And to really be with folks right as they are invited to be circle keepers in spaces that consistently punished their bodies and hearts and souls. Like that's the Oh shit. Because how do I how how with integrity and care can I say to someone I now love stay in it stay stay present with that white educator while they X, Y or Z stay in the good work when you didn't get put on the calendar again. Right are they missed you on the agenda for like, so that's the oh shit stuff because they are full and whole and glorious and gifted. And the school needs them. And it's Oh shit, when there are wounds and bruises because because schools are still dominated by white practices, and efficiency and the stuff that's required so that's the Oh shit. If like how to, how to honestly with love know that these amazing people that I care for and spaces that will predictably cause them harm? And yet, hold love, hold faith, hold heart for that. That's Oh shit.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, I'm thinking about the, the privilege that both you and I hold in the ability to step out of those systems, right and create something for ourselves and just reflecting on myself, right? Playing into the culture of like, no, this this person is the expert. And like, you know, as much as I reject that term, like, I'm someone who has experience and knows this work right? In in a certain context, right? That's not what I'm in. That's not what I am paid to be in certain spaces where people say, like, Oh, no, help us come learn this, right. And there's immense privilege in that, and like, I can't do that in integrity. If I'm like, forsaking communities who are most impacted. So there's, there's definitely a tension there a different frame for the oshit. That then we often have, but still wonderful. This one's a little bit lighter. 

David (he/him)  
You get to sit in circle with four people living or dead. Who are they? And what's the question you ask the circle?

Becky McCammon  
I want to sit with my kiddos and their dad. And I want us to, I want to come around and talk about how we've we've loved one another, even when it's hard, and when it's good. Yeah, I just want to keep practicing that with them.

David (he/him)  
I'm laughing because a lot of times it's like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X person. And then like, artist, musician I admire and an ancestor that if I was to, like, categorize people's responses, like the fall into like, civil rights, justice, icon, artist, ancestor, and then like, you know, wildcard, other person. That was, that was a different answer. And I appreciated a lot of the times restorative justice is only spoken about in like context of schools and the criminal legal system. I'm curious if you can think of a place or situation whether it's historical, fictional, or like from your life, where you wish people really knew this word? Oh,

Becky McCammon  
yes. So it links to that circle if I could have a circle. So I started this position and was introduced to circle practice, about the time that my co parent and I split. And what happened was that I wanted to be honest about who I was when I started this journey. Right that that I hadn't set in circle before I was empowered to this to be in this amazing work. And so I started holding circle with my kids. And it was always a beautiful, awkward mess. 

Becky McCammon  
So I tell the story of my daughter, who is the youngest, bringing like stuffed animals and their blankets, and each of those individuals got a turn with the talking piece. And it was a lesson immediately in with an older brother and with a mom that's prone to talk. They needed greater equity of voice to be in circle with us. Watching my teenage son who has anxiety and works through attention issues, like need to bounce a basketball or roll around on the floor and circle what were lessons abundant to me when Lily would sit in my lap to hold the talking piece me understanding like that that's was the embrace. She needed to feel like she they could speak. And I think the way this ended up manifesting forward in important ways was that Friday nights were always when my kiddos transitioned to time with their dad. And it was all it was it was rough in that they had just had an exhausting week of school. And they just wanted to be somewhere still, they didn't want to get in a car and have to hold the reality of I'm moving away from mom moving toward that. 

Becky McCammon  
So we had lots of circles in those hours of transition between mom's house and dad's house. And so I like that, like, I really want families to have this as a practice, because there's a, there's so much to how I was raised how my mom was raised to how my grandmother was raised that influences like, how I came of age as a woman, how I came of age, with voice as a woman body issues on and on and on, I feel like I am constantly unlearning in my parenting. And the way my parents divorced and how that impacted me is significant. So those circles in those opening months and years of our family finding a new way to be unhealthy relationship together. So significant. My children do not want to sit in circle with me nowadays. Which is why that's my, like, ideal. So that's, that's where I want. I want families to have this.

David (he/him)  
Yeah, absolutely. And thank you for putting like the specific story to it, right? We know that this work belongs everywhere with everyone. But like, you know, the specific examples are really what help people like understand like, this is the impact that it can have. You know, as we're starting to transition out, like what is one thing that you want our listeners to take away from our time together, it might be a mantra might be an affirmation, it might be something else that you really want to make sure that people leave with.

Becky McCammon  
I want them to want them to feel empowered and supported to have a circle of their own. Whether it's in the opening years of their restorative journey. In the right in the heart of what they're doing right now, circles really specifically, or circle like spaces really specifically designed for the kind of confidentiality and vulnerability that familiar circles involve. The first year that I was in this work, I worked with two circle keepers. And every month we met at a coffee shop for three hours. And I released and let go and said out loud, the aches, the wounds the bruises, though, like shaking my fist at like the world and the system like I I said all that stuff out loud. And it was held in a restorative space with folks that understood because their circle keepers what that meant, and would never write would never use those moments where I sound uglier, in a way that would harm me. 

Becky McCammon  
Pretty soon into the story, or I don't know, maybe when I understood myself a little bit more. I became really, really careful about my social media life. I believed that there was just no way for me to rant about the 2016 election, because it was one screenshot that would say this is the restorative justice leader for St. Paul and look at how she talks about the world. Like we all are sort of folks deserve sacred, confidential spaces, to say things that are true, that won't that like that get to stay in those circles spaces. So I think that's what I want for folks really, really safe spaces that have a shared lexicon and love language around what the work is. Because I can feel real mad and real angry about things and that doesn't make me less restorative. But I feel like because the work is still emerging in its identity, right and social consciousness. We need those circles. So I want folks to have lots of circle friends I think we we were all about and remain all about like the plus one circle. So if a circle spaces convening really consistently or for community is convening, convening consistently and circle at some fixtured point of trust. The plus one circle means invite your best friend invite your sister invite your husband, partner, wife like child because they're hearing you talk about circle all the time over a dinner, but they have no idea what you're talking about. So those plus one circles, like give you that other sort of that person the chat with to be with

David (he/him)  
Two more questions. Who is one person that I should have on this podcast? Bonus points? If you can help me connect with them and bring them on?

Becky McCammon  
 Oh my goodness. 

David (he/him)  
Just like Nancy tagged you.

Becky McCammon  
Oh my god. So I have love for lots and lots and lots of folks do I just have to I only get to say one.

David (he/him)  
You can say a handful.

Becky McCammon  
Hang out with Chris Mendez. He's at the legal rights center. He's ever started facilitator and he's one of the folks that has done podcasting. And as currently interviewing some of our educators he's remarkable. Shawn Davenport, is one of our restorative leaders have just incredible heart. Just like I said, My son moved my son out of one middle school to go to his middle school, because I just trusted to the sort of restorative bumper that Shawn could provide. There's a gajillion just so many, so I can I can send you a robust list. And then you might feel a little bit like, over this table story, though. So

David (he/him)  
no, and do you know her?

Becky McCammon  
She's amazing. Oh,

David (he/him)  
I would like so. Do you know? Do you know Kathy Evans? 

Becky McCammon  
Yes  

David (he/him)  
or is it all out of emu? Yeah. She's at the EMU. So I just recorded with her earlier this morning. And I didn't even know who meisha when. that's who we're talking about. Right? I didn't even know who she was until this morning. And Nancy was like, yeah, you should reach out because like Nancy doesn't like know her like that. But yeah, I didn't even know about her book. But now I've got to go read that book. But yeah, I would. I would love that connection. 

David (he/him)  
Yeah,

Becky McCammon  
just Miesha is amazing. We have these as some of her matching earrings. My Isha has great hearing game, in addition to being like, ridiculously amazing and good. We won, we won a federal grant in 2018. To take what we were learning and expand it to eight more schools. Meisha agreed to be our technical consultant. And so we've circled together and she's been out to Minnesota, and we're going out to California. And she's just, she's amazing. Yeah.

David (he/him)  
Beautiful. Yes. love to see those things coming together. Finally, you know, we've already plugged your website, we'll definitely plug it again. But how and where can people support you and your work in the ways that you want to be supported? You can also shout out your book. 

Becky McCammon  
Yeah. Yeah.  I wrote a book. Yes, yes.

David (he/him)  
restorative practices in sorry, at schools, you will get that link of but how else can people support you in your work,

Becky McCammon  
love on themselves. I like and be patient with themselves. One of the things I talked about just in the opening pages of the book is that literally like, it's cool, if you spill coffee on this, it's cool if you set your LaCroix  on top of it, it's cool if it sits in a stack for a bit because there's a lot coming at all of us all the time learn this, try this practice this and you know, that social dose social discipline window that we use to talk about like where restorative lives and that with space.

Becky McCammon  
 You have to support me I feel like it's loving on yourself. And I know that I don't mean that as a pass up like a like a passive or an easy move because it is it's a whole hard thing to to be kind to yourself in schools to be patient with yourself in schools. Which I think translates towards folks struggling to find the patience they want to have with young people and and the care and empathy they want to have with their colleagues. How's that sound?

David (he/him)  
No, that's, that's perfect. In addition to finding out more about her work at restorativelyyours.com and buying restorative practices at schools, you're not going to do the promotion. I'll do it. Thank you so much, Becky, for being here. sharing your wisdom, your time your stories, listeners, is there anything else that you want to leave the people with?

Becky McCammon  
How are you feeling that might be how they're feeling could be could be Naboo? How are you feeling out of the space?

David (he/him)  
How am I feeling I am feeling happy for this connection. And I imagine, follow future connections that you and I will have in I don't know, if enlightens the right word challenged to think about things in a couple different ways. Yeah. How are you feeling?

Becky McCammon  
Like I hope we totally hang out again, because it is I can talk about the loneliness that people experience in schools or the loneliness that we might all hold. And and it doesn't mean that these these days that I've had since, like, starting new chapters, that there aren't moments that I wonder at what, what, how to how to be in relationship, right, with the work and in the connected dots sort of way. And so we should totally virtually hang out where what state are you in? 

David (he/him)  
I'm in California. 

Becky McCammon  
So, you know, maybe you'll come to Chicago to the conference next summer, though, next July?

David (he/him)  
Oh, I'll definitely be there. Chicago. Well, this is a conversation that will continue after we stopped recording. So I'm gonna wrap this up where it is, well, I guess we can shout out the nacrg conference. They are, in some ways a sponsor of this podcast. So check that out. At nacrj.org. I believe the conferences next, God willing the conferences next summer, in late June, early July, one of the early July of next year. So come out and see us. But until then. This has been this restorative justice life for this week. We'll be back with another conversation next week. Until then, take care