January 22, 2015 | by Michael Coleman

A Day in the Life of a Restorative Justice Specialist

Michael_Cropped.jpgUmoja is often asked what our Restorative Justice Program looks like and we thought the best way to understand was to describe what a typical day looks like for one of our Restorative Justice Specialists, Michael Coleman, at Tilden High School. Below is what a typical day for Michael looks like:


I aim to arrive at Tilden by 7:30am every day.  This gives me a chance to prepare for my day by finishing up lingering paperwork, reviewing the cases from the previous day that still need attention, and sometimes gives me time to stop by the cafeteria and say hello to students during breakfast.


School starts at 8:00am. I help with monitoring students in the hallway, as getting students to class on time is an all-hands-on-deck effort.  Once classes begin, the two Deans (school administrators responsible for student behavior and supports) and I connect with each other and strategize about the upcoming school day. Since Tilden is a first-year partner in the Restorative Justice work, they often joke about me being a third Dean! 


Two students got into an altercation the previous day. While they both successfully took part in a Peace Circle (restorative practice that brings students together in a circle to resolve conflicts respectfully), we determined we wanted to follow-up with each student the next day.  The students come to school with their parents. While the previous day’s Peace Circle arrived at a resolution, this meeting is more future-oriented. Essentially, the goal is to ensure both students have no lingering negative feelings remaining, and then to create an organized effort between the school, the students, and their parents, to ensure this does not happen again.


Attend the CARE Team (facilitated by Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Community Linked Mental Health Services Program) meeting.  The CARE Team aims to provide support for students who are experiencing difficulties for managing their anger, or are having trouble processing traumatic events in their lives.  In this meeting we discuss students that are referred to the CARE Team, and connect them with appropriate supports.


Connect with a teacher about a student concern he had.  He noticed that yesterday two of his students seemed tense toward each other, and would like to partner with me on following up with these students.  We discuss his concerns, and outline our plan of action.


I speak with both students mentioned above privately, and then bring them together for mediation.  Both students suggest they were irritable yesterday, and felt some jokes crossed a line.  Students apologize to each other, and outline a plan for letting each other know when they are feeling irritable and are not in the mood to joke around.


Two students get into a disagreement in class, and are sent to the Peace Room to discuss their disagreement.  In the discussion it comes up that both students are feeling stressed because they each have a parent battling health issues.  The students decide to write an apology letter to their teacher and their class, and read it to the class upon returning.  The students also discuss ways they could support each other through this challenging time.


Two students are sent out of a co-taught class.  The students report that it is near the end of the day and they were feeling energetic and playful.  Since this is a co-taught class, one teacher comes to the Peace Room to address the students.  The students leave the Peace Room saying they have a better understanding of how their actions impact both the class as a whole, and others’ perceptions of them.  Students outline a plan with the teacher to improve their classroom behavior that includes providing the students with classroom leadership opportunities.


School is dismissed and I spend the rest of my day doing paper work and checking in with both Deans about the day and what will need follow-up tomorrow morning.