Restorative Practices in Action (RPIA) believes in empowering teachers. Over the course of the 2022- 2023 school year, we have learned that there are no limits in the how behind this rigorous process. The organization has tripled in size since June 2022, and after running RPIA programming in the Philadelphia area for over three years, founder and CEO, Claire Miller has been collecting valuable feedback from RPIA teachers to enhance the RPIA teacher experience. The most consistent piece of qualitative data that we receive from teachers is: “Strategies, strategies, and more strategies please!” The RPIA staff seeks to honor the voices and needs of teachers and students that are impacted by our work, and the creation and development of the RPIA Sparkbook is no exception.
What better way to provide teachers with new and different strategies aligned with restorative practices than by sharing a “spark” of brilliant innovation across classrooms? The expertise and individualized teaching experiences of each teacher is part of what makes RPIA such a unique and asset- based teacher training program. Janae Hoffler, RPIA content coach and classroom teacher, shares: “This resource has given me concrete suggestions to incorporate and adapt to fit my classroom/students’ needs, and I’ve increased my efficacy as a teacher as a result. I’ve also seen growth in my students’ voice and empowerment, and believe the changes needed for the upcoming school year will also positively increase their ownership as well. The Sparkbook is an invaluable guide that features practical solutions to common challenges teachers may face on a whole-class, small group, and interpersonal level.” Since August 2022, up to 150 teachers have been meeting routinely across five cohorts– four of which include collective groups of teachers from the greater Philadelphia area. Given that “Create Collaboration” is an RPIA core value, we strive to build collective and sustainable impact for our students, and the RPIA Sparkbook has given “collaboration” a whole new meaning.
In January 2022, RPIA officially distributed the Sparkbook to all teacher cohorts, and teachers were hooked. Virginia DeWees, RPIA teacher in our Philly Cohort, stated, “The RPIA Sparkbook has provided me with a plethora of tools to add to my toolbox to be the best, restorative educator possible.” There are currently 35 strategies in the Sparkbook, with a projection of up to 50 total by the end of this school year. The Sparkbook was designed for teachers to seamlessly engage with, with the hope that any teacher could pick it up at any time, and find the inspiration they need to “spark” an idea to develop student leadership. Each strategy listed in the book includes a theory- aligned book for reference, implementation ideas, and examples of student impact. The Sparkbook also includes a resource called the “Spark Strategy Index” which denotes each strategy in the book, the targeted student group, the level of preparation for the teacher, and the page number. One teacher from our Neubauer cohort wrote in a post session survey: “The Spark Book has many concrete strategies and will soon have more!”
Since November, Janae and I have collaborated with up to twelve current RPIA teachers and two RPIA coaches across four cohorts to develop Sparkbook pages utilizing the restorative practice strategies that those educators have found effective in their classrooms. In addition to teachers helping other teachers by sharing their strategies, we have found another element of powerful impact. The teachers we collaborate with to develop pages feel empowered by the opportunity to share their valued work. Liza, an English teacher at TECH Freire stated, “SUPER honored to be considered – thank you!” The irony however, is that the teachers are in fact the experts here, and it is our honor to collaborate with them as we celebrate their work in hopes of igniting a spark for fellow educators.