Indigenous practices having positive effect on students

Teachers introducing community-building circles and restorative practices into their classrooms are already reporting more positive relationships among students.

Benefits also include a sense of community in the classroom, the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) reports.

In a program developed in consultation with local Indigenous community partners to promote positive behaviour and a sense of belonging, Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis and Inuit Voices teachers received training on how to introduce the community-building circles and restorative practices into their classrooms.

(Beginning in 2023-24, all YRDSB students must take the Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis and Inuit Voices course as their required Grade 11 English credit to expand their understandings of Indigenous peoples, cultures and contemporary realities.)

Teachers are using the community-building circles to build classroom community and relationships between students to promote positive behaviour and are using restorative approaches to repair relationships when harm has been done. “Restorative practices basically (are) a look at shifting mindset from punitive to a more restorative approach focusing more on relationships and mending relationships versus punishment,” explains Kyle Herbert, First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education Consultant.

“People have shared that students who don’t normally engage with other peers are engaging, groups are forming that would not normally form inside and outside of the classroom,” he adds. “It’s having a positive impact outside the circle as well.”

Students who are provided with intentional opportunities to build healthy relationships with their peers and are part of supportive environments are less likely to engage in or be victims of bullying, the YRDSB reports.

The second day of training approached Pink Shirt Day on February 28 and teachers participating in the program reported seeing increased engagement and collaboration among students, and the development and strengthening of positive peer relationships. (Pink Shirt Day, also known as Anti-Bullying Day, is a day when people come together by wearing pink shirts to school or work to show they’re against bullying.)

“When we think about Pink Shirt Day, we think about belonging, we think about mattering,” Herbert says. “In terms of what the pink shirt highlights, those students all put pink shirts on to support their peer, to show support and to show community. That’s really what the crux of the program is. It’s highlighting community building and really how that impacts student well-being.”

Teachers share the impact of the program in this video.

Photo of is a screenshot from the video, which was provided courtesy of the York Region District School Board.

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