Classroom Management: The Importance of Restoring the Balance

A few years ago I had two sixth-grade students in my middle school classroom that were funny, helpful, but also found ways to push the boundaries. We can call them Kazimir (Kaz) and Patrizio (Pat). These boys brought so much joy and enthusiasm to my science classroom. But also, at times, I’d have to rein in that enthusiasm when it went from fun to frantic. How did I support Kaz and Pat in finding the boundary between engaged and disruptive? Restorative Lunch! Read on to learn more about restoring the balance in your classroom when things go awry.

Over many years of teaching, I’ve learned that it’s good to have a plan for dealing with disruptions in the classroom. It’s an expectation that, sometimes, lessons will be disrupted and will go sideways. Hosting a Restorative Lunch is a way to minimize the disruptions while supporting students in improving their metacognitive process.  Like Kaz and Pat, children are learning to find the teacher’s boundaries and also the art of self-control.  While many teachers host a lunch detention as a classroom management tool, I find that strategy to be less effective than spending time with students and asking them to give back to the classroom. Supporting students in correcting behavior and giving students opportunities to grow from their mistakes are both parts of the process of growing and learning. 

I had a few days this year that left me feeling like I’d spent the entire day being chased by wild hyenas. And I had. I let the students run me ragged. Each time, I went back to a few basic principles of behavior management:

  • Do not disrupt the whole class’ flow just to provide discipline support to one child. 
  • When it’s convenient, walk over to that student (or bring them in the hall) and speak to them 1:1. 
  • Always retain the student’s dignity. No shame should be brought to this game. 
  • Your basic message is: You know the rules, let’s get this train back on its track.
  • If the behavior continues, proceed to either a Think Sheet or an invitation to a Restorative Lunch.

While I’ve found both Think Sheets and Restorative Lunch to be effective in different situations, today I am going to specifically share about Restorative Lunch. The lunch can be held the same day (if the student is available and it’s before lunchtime when the incident occurs) or the following day (if a student has a makeup math test or the class is after lunch). On the day that Kaz and Pat disrupted my class, this is how I proceeded with Restorative Lunch:

  1. After attempting to get them back on track in a 1:1 conversation, I informed them that we were going to move to a Restorative Lunch. 
  2. Since it was early in the day and I was concerned they would forget, I sent passes to their pre-lunch teacher. These hall passes simply included the student’s name, and that they needed to come to Restorative Lunch in my room.
  3. Kaz went to the lunchroom with his pass (this allowed him to jump the lunch line) and Pat grabbed his lunch from his locker. They met in my classroom. 
  4. Kaz and Pat had time to eat. This is not a silent lunch; this is not a punishment. During a Restorative Lunch, your job is to build bridges and return respect to the relationship. So while Kaz and Pat ate, I joined them. We talked about their upcoming basketball game, how much they didn’t like math (but loved their math teacher!), and our weekend plans. 
  5. After eating, I lead a guided discussion about the event. What happened? How could we have each improved how things went in the class that day? What is our plan moving forward?
  6. I asked Kaz and Pat to give back to the class. Often, students are stumped and aren’t sure how to give back. I’ll offer a few ideas: clean the lab tables, help me set up a lab, put up or take down student work from the hallways, write a letter of apology to the class or a specific student (or to me), etc. On this day, Kaz and Pat chose to help me set up labs. I showed them how to set up one station, then they set up the other seven. 
  7. Usually, a Restorative Lunch passes quickly so the students still have time for recess. Again, Restorative Lunch is not punitive. I’m not taking anything away from the students, I’m providing the time for them to give back. So recess time is not a reward, it is a transition back to being with friends in their learning community. 

The next day in class, Kaz and Pat were proud and were shamelessly bragging that they had set up all of the labs for class that day. “You guys should thank us,” they said, “We set this all up!” One of the kids asked, “When did you do this?” Kaz said, “During Restorative Lunch. It was actually kind of fun.” From my point of view, this entire intervention was a win. I had only one other need to call Kaz and Pat in for a Restorative Lunch again later in the year.

Try using Restorative Lunch in your own classroom with this bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers! Includes PDFs and slides for use with Google Slides. $4.50 on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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