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Unpacking Trauma and Restorative Practices in Education with Joshua Stamper Episode 46

Unpacking Trauma and Restorative Practices in Education with Joshua Stamper

· 35:57


RS Joshua Stamper

[00:00:00] Welcome to the Resilient Schools Podcast on the Be Podcast Network. I am your host, Jethro Jones. You can find me on all the social medias at Jethro Jones. Today I'm excited to have Joshua Stamper on the program.

He's the Director of Innovation for the Teach Better Team and manages the Teach Better Podcast Network. Prior to Josh's current position, he was a middle school administrator, classroom art educator, and an athletic coach. In addition to being on the Teach Better team, Josh was author of Aspire to Lead, a podcaster, leadership Coach, and Education presenter.

Josh, welcome to Resilient Schools. Thanks for being here.

It's such an honor to with you. It's fantastic.

Well, thank you and I, I had the great privilege of being on your show, aspire to lead a couple weeks ago, and I just really appreciated that opportunity and was excited to bring you on this show [00:01:00] as well. So to you, from our conversation today, what do you think the big takeaway is for people? I.

Yeah, I think it was just dispelling misconceptions of restorative practices and how we can help our students in regards to trauma. I think it's very prevalent in our schools and you know, for us to rely on traditional practices, I think sometimes really does a disservice to our students and trying to find some alternative and creative ways to help teach behavior instead of just punish.

absolutely. The big thing for me that we didn't even, we didn't even go into detail about this, but you talked about teachers having a relationship with a student and you said that the student is compliant in their classroom, and that teachers said that was. That was a relationship and you know, we could probably spend a whole episode talking about just that piece.

That compliance does not equal a relationship. But I think, there's good stuff there. And you, maybe that's for our next episode. So Josh, thanks for being here. We're gonna get to my interview with Josh here in [00:02:00] Josh, a moment. (ad here)


So Josh, I think I'd like to start out with talking about this idea of what people typically get wrong when it comes to restorative practices. What is something that you see that people usually don't get right when it comes to this? And I've got my thoughts, but I want to hear your thought thoughts first.


Yeah, so I've been doing this work for quite some time, and generally what folks think is that it's a kumbaya method, that we're all going to hold hands, circle up, sing songs, and that everything's gonna be better. The other thing that I find is that folks also think that it's in replacement to consequences, and we have to really define what consequences mean. I think a lot of people default to their own experience and what they're. Have seen as far as being a student, but then also being a teacher and an administrator, which is defaulting to detention in school suspension or outta school [00:03:00] suspension. And when there's, shift in that, then it's like, well, no, that's not how we do it, or that's not gonna work. These are the only tools that we have to our disposal, and that's what we should be defaulting to. So I think those two components are probably the things that I dispel the most with folks is that it's not a magic potion, it's not a silver bullet. You know, I know that some folks have been frustrated, but they have to understand that's when, person has gone through trauma. There's no quick fix. It takes time to build an environment that's gonna be supportive where trust has been built and that student knows exactly what's gonna go on within that learning space. And so I think consistency is huge. And then also making sure that we understand that when we put something in place and there are consequences that go with that, that the next day is not gonna be a brand new child that comes into our classroom.

Yeah I think that piece is really key, that it does take time, that it's not something that is gonna. [00:04:00] Gonna change overnight or be fixed overnight. And the thing is suspensions don't change or fix things overnight either. And we have some romanticized notion that they do when in reality they're not really that helpful.

Let's talk a little bit more about consequences, because you said it's not a replacement for consequences, but it's often perceived. As such, and so what consequences go hand in hand with restorative practices? That make sense? And again, I have my own thoughts, but I'll hear yours first.

Of course. So Jet, I always talk about it as being something that's in repair of what was broken, right? And so obviously it could be a fracture in relationship. It could be a fracture, and I actually physically broke something or maybe I stole something. Or maybe it's, you know, a fight where. You know, we had some conflict physically.

And so with that, you know, I always try to give permission to my admin and those who are doing restore practices to say [00:05:00] like, what is it that the student can do to fix or resolve what was broken in the past? And so, I'll just give you an example of a situation. We had a student go into our library during the book fair and he grabbed a book, threw it under his jacket, and walked out. Librarian saw it ran after him, brought him to the front office, right? For an a typical traditional discipline matrix, that student would be in ISIS for probably multiple days because of that. So instead what we did was we had myself, the librarian, and the student come and do a restorative circle, right? Get to the bottom of the root of the behavior, and trying to figure out what was going on in addition to that. There was a chance for the student to decide what was going to be repairing the situation, right? You took a book, so what are you gonna do? So the student decided that he was gonna volunteer his time before school for two weeks to help the librarian, you know, with the book fair, and then also kind of be in a secret shopper to make sure that other students weren't [00:06:00] stealing books.

Also in that. I called the parent, she was shocked. She thought just, she just assumed that he was gonna go, sent, be sent to ISS. Talked about what was done as far as the restored circle. You know, there was a point where the student apologized on his own to the librarian. Then we, you know, laid out the plan.

She was. Enthused by it because she thought, well actually this is much longer of a stint of time, and she really wanted him to learn his lesson. Right.

Much more of a pound of flesh. Yeah.

right. So mom was upset. 'cause she's like, we have the money. I don't know why sealant. Well, what it came down to is he was just trying to show off to his friends, right?

It was about cloud who was trying to be popular with his peers. So he went every morning before school. And what happened was that he actually built a really strong relationship with librarian. And beyond his time of two weeks, he actually would go out during lunch to the library and volunteer his time to take the books and put 'em back on the shelf and whatnot. So all that being said is because of that situation, [00:07:00] if you look at it from the outside, teachers goes, oh, he stole a book and he's not an ISS, what's the deal? He got off scot free, but in turn he was in the library every morning for two weeks. And in that. He learned his lesson, he had a consequence, and he actually restored the relationship between him and the librarian, in addition to that, had a better relationship moving forward with that person.

Right? So all that being said is that some folks don't understand what that looks like. They don't see the back end of it. They didn't see the conversation that happened with the restorative circle in the front office between the library and the student. They don't hear the conversation with a parent. They also don't see, sometimes the consequences occurs and then there's assumptions being made as far as, oh, they got off scot free.

So there are a couple things that I want to address here. Number one, the suggestion by the offender is not always. Adequate for really restoring for the [00:08:00] offended. And so how do you bring in the offended to give them a chance to say, this is what I need in order to be whole? I.

Yeah. So part of that restorative circle piece is that everyone has an opportunity to not only speak but to listen, right? And sometimes that restorative circle needs to have additional folks brought in, right? Sometimes I had parents in a part of that conversation because I needed their, not only their support, but also, you know, being a collaborative space to figure out what is it that needs to happen for this to be. Restored, right. To be fixed. And so, you know, sometimes it was a counselor, sometimes it was coach, you know, so there was a lot of different folks that I would lean on to try and find a resolution for every situation. And as you know, Joe Throw, every kid is different. Every situation is different. So, I always hate the cookie cutter discipline matrix to say, this offense equals this punishment.

Because a lot of times. That didn't work in the situation that I was working in. And so, yeah, a [00:09:00] lot of times, you know, when you first start a restorative circle that student doesn't wanna get in trouble. They're scared, there's fear, maybe they're anger. There's a lot of different emotions. And so sometimes the output as far as trying to be creative in that needed some other folks to be brought in to figure out what that solution was gonna be at the end.

So one of the things we've talked about with previous guests is the idea of doing a circle and that was with, rebecca Lewis PanIN, I believe. So just go to resilient schools.com, search for circles. You can learn more about setting up the circles, all the things that you need to do. I'm trying to get into the nuts and bolts here with Josh specifically.

And so Josh, with that, I. There's this idea that you mentioned that the librarian was happy because she got her pound of flush. She got more time for to stick it to the kid, which I'm using that language intentionally because that's often how it feels. And the reality [00:10:00] though is that it doesn't end up that way.

Most of the time that a relationship is actually improved or created, or developed in that situation, what things need to be in place for that relationship to actually happen? Because it doesn't happen just because they happen to spend time together. He doesn't volunteer to go in there later just because he happened to be there in the morning.

How? How do you get to that point of them? Being okay. Having that person in their space, being with them closely and continuing that, like talk about the things that you need to do at administrative level to help those things happen as naturally as possible.

Yeah, I think there definitely has to be, buy-in to understand that, you know, a lot of times student behavior isn't personal. You know, the things that they're doing isn't, you know, he didn't steal that book to stick it to the librarian. Right. And so, thankfully we had been doing the work on that campus for multiple years as far as restorative practices and [00:11:00] talking about, you know, how trauma has affected our students and some of the things that we need to. Work on within the restorative circles. So this wasn't a foreign concept to the librarian, to kudos to her for not taking it personal. You know, she did appreciate the help before school. So that's, I think why she got excited. But I think understanding that, you know, there was some things going on in this child's life and our staff understanding and that, you know. We have seen a lot of kids go to ISS and the behavior is the same, if not worse. So why would we continue to do the exact same thing expecting a different result? That would just be ridiculous, right? So, sometimes we had to remind our staff, like, you know, is s shouldn't be the default, right? There's, there needs to be other things in place, but then also like having training for ASAP to understand like. We do need to build relationships with our students. It's very important. Even if they did something incorrectly, we still need to know them at a human level. And some of that was actually creating prompts for them. And so, you know, we can't assume too, like our staff [00:12:00] comes in and just knows how to build the relationships with their kids a lot of times. Our teacher would be like, yeah, I have a great relationship with 'em, but it really was, this student is compliant in my classroom. I know their name. I know maybe a sport that they play, but as far as going any deeper than that, that didn't really exist. So we had to really kind of teach our staff as far as how to get our students to understand like connections between the teacher and themselves, and then also themselves with.

They're peers and so, you know, doing brain breaks and relationship circles and other activities within the classroom to kind of start opening that up. So I would say that if you are starting out and you're trying to make this happen it's gonna be more difficult than three, four years into that process of trying to get everybody on the same page and having that mindset of trying to fix versus just punish.

Yeah, and like on. On that piece the first talk that I gave on restore Restorative Practices [00:13:00] or Resilient Schools was I said something in there about how to start this process, and one of the key things I said was, don't take it personally. That the behavior that kids have, you can't take it personal.

And I remember someone in the audience came up to me afterward and said, you can't tell teachers to not take it personally. And I was like, oh, are you taking it personally? But seriously you, you can't take it personally because most of the time the behavior has nothing to do with you. And when it does have something to do with you.

Even still, it's not worth it to take it personally, even when somebody is just like, I hate this teacher or this principal and I'm gonna do this on purpose to attack them. That is not what I. Typical people do, and so there is something causing them to feel like that is an okay response and that is really challenging for someone to [00:14:00] deal with for sure.

But you still can't take it personal. What's your advice to help people see that they can't take this thing, that they put so much time and energy into that they can't take it personally?

It's difficult. Jethro, I mean, I, there, I can think of personal examples of myself taking things personal when I was completely wrong. The kid, most of the students they're not thinking about us outside of school, you know? And so, there's always an underlying. Reason for the behavior.

And so we talked about that a lot. I talk in conferences and I'm with school districts called the Language of Behavior, right? And what he's talking about is like, behavior is a language. So we gotta decode it and figure out what's at a deeper level because there's something going on, as you said, Jethro, like some of the behaviors, for instance, like if the kids are running down the hallway, you tell 'em to stop and they tell you to f off. That's a normal behavior. Like 99% of the students are going through the hallways and will not do that action. So like that student in that situation, there's obviously something deeper than we need to get to the bottom of. Obviously there needs to be a consequence for [00:15:00] that action, but at the same point, there's some additional resources and teaching that it needs to occur and that we as a educational community need to figure that out.

So it is very hard. We're in a people business and when you spend so much time with these students for a full year or nine months. It's like a family. They know how to push your buttons. They know how to get under your skin. They know how to irritate you because of the amount of time in that classroom.

So, it, it makes sense. You know, it's something that we just have to continue to remind folks that, you know, there is something deeper here going on, and we just have to spend a little bit more time getting to the bottom of it to make sure that we're remedying that.

(ad here) I remember having a conversation with the teacher and basically saying something to the effect of. Stop being so conceited. Nobody is thinking about you outside of when they're in your classroom. And she was like. What, how dare you say something like that. And I was like, do you go home and [00:16:00] think about me?

And she's like, no. I said, do you go home and waste your time thinking about your students and how they're like stressing you out. And she's like, well, yeah, I do. I think about like what I can do to reach them. And I said, do you think about how you can get back at 'em or like do something to hurt them and.

Point, like, point out their flaws. She's like, no, of course not. I said, nobody else does either. Like, why are you thinking that These kids are like plotting and scheming to hurt you? They don't care about you that much and if they did care about you enough to spend time thinking about you, then they would be thinking positively like you are about them.

And she was like. Offended at first and then totally understood. Like, okay, this is real. And maybe they're not always thinking about me, but because they came into her class and they just turned into different people. She even said that, and that was part of the thing that made it so powerful is she's like, they're different people.

They turned into different people and they come in [00:17:00] and it's like, oh, well then there's something going on in your room that's making them feel this way. I promise you they're not thinking about you at all outside of class. And she was like, she just couldn't believe it. But that idea that it was all about her was very real to her in the moment.

And I. Once she understood that it wasn't all about her, she was able to move on and actually start working on fixing those relationships and taking advantage of the time that she had with them in her classroom rather than thinking that they were, you know, scheming and out to get her outside of the classroom.

So let's talk about that piece a little bit. What are the things. You know, you said after three or four years this becomes easier. What are those things that need to happen that lay the groundwork for restorative practices to work?

Well, I think the first piece is that proactive component, right? So getting at the root of what's going on in the classroom. I think it's funny 'cause I was shaking my head when [00:18:00] you were giving that example, because I've had that before where you know the teachers are like this. X, Y and Z student is different in my classroom than in their science class or their history class.

And I was like, well then go visit that class. Like obviously something's happening in that environment and there's some procedures that are in place that are being successful. So why wouldn't we adopt that into our own classroom to make sure that we're modeling the exact same environment in both spaces?

Right. And sometimes it's the mix of kids and there's a lot of other variables sometimes. But for us, you know, I was talking about the relationship circle, I was talking about making sure that we had brain breaks where they got to connect with the folks. The other thing that we implemented was relationship. Relationship plans essentially. So it was like student to student to teacher and teacher to student. So what does that look like? As far as our classroom norms and agreeing upon that. And then, you know, if you wanted to get fancy with it, sometimes they would make it, they would blow it up, have all the kids sign it, and it would be posted somewhere.

So it has to be posted. It has to be something that you're constantly looking at and bring it up and modifying too. It's not set in stone. For instance, if cell phones become a issue in the classroom and the [00:19:00] kids think that should be something that's a norm, that's placed up on the relationship agreement, then. Then you would modify that and you would put, and you'd repost it back up. We saw a lot of success in that. The other thing too was like looking at the data as an administrator, what we found was thousands of hours literally were wasted in ISS, where they weren't with the content expert. And so it was always funny to see teachers shocked by the data. When students didn't do well in state testing, it's like, well look at how much time they've actually spent in the classroom versus outta the classroom. And then if you look even deeper, it was on low level infractions. Right? So it's like a disruption in the classroom or insubordination or something like that. So we were saying, and we did adopt this from another school, was what if we did something where it was called a push in, and for that situation it was allowing a counselor or administrator or coach someone to come in and relieve the teacher. So the teacher then has a conversation with the student on the hallway, on a walk. The reason we did that was because a lot of times Jet, and you probably know this as a former administrator, is that a kid [00:20:00] would act up, get sent outta class. Then the administrator would build a better relationship with that student because they spent time with them. They were trying to decipher what's going on and became the middle man.

And then there was a lot of tension that was going on because. The student was fine with the administrator, but still had a fractured relationship with the teacher. And then of course, the student goes back to the classroom the next day and that fracture still exists. And so there's hostility there. And so what we tried to do is alleviate all that I. And make sure that the teacher was having the chance to, because that's all the teachers wanted. They wanted to figure out what was going on. They wanted the student back in the class. There's not too many teachers that are like, get out and stay out. I never want you to come back again. Right. Especially on a low level infraction.

So we were able to shave off literally hundreds of hours of time just for, you know, the teacher to have three to five minutes to just figure out, Hey, what's going on? Right. Okay, your parents were fighting all night last night and you got an hour of sleep. You know, maybe there's an understanding here that you know, can have a [00:21:00] break every once in a while.

Wanna just, lemme know right now we did check-ins too. That was another thing that was huge, was trying to figure out what's going on in the lives of our students so that we can give the resources that are needed, you know, in that situation. So if a kid only got an hour of sleep, is there an opportunity for that kid to maybe take a nap? God forbid we provide basic needs to the student, right? Or, hey, this child didn't eat for a whole 24 hours and he's starving, right? So maybe let's get him a meal. So that way he can get through his day. So check-ins were huge for us too. Especially as mental health is decreasing and students are having suicidal thoughts and some other ideations.

You know, we were able to get resources to 'em at the beginning of the day instead of finding out later when potentially they're trying to take action.

Yeah, that's really good. And the other thing is about those push-ins, you're gonna be spending that time as the administrator anyway. You know, you're not, you're gonna be tied up, not able to do anything else. So

rather than spend 20 minutes trying to get a kid calm down, get them to divulge [00:22:00] what's really going on, build the relationship with them, why not let the person that they had the conflict with, that they're gonna see more often than you anyway.

Why not have them build that relationship with that person? I think that's a great strategy that we implemented in our schools as well. And you know, frontloading, that kind of thing with check-ins and saying, look, I know I'm gonna be spending two hours with this kid. Every day. I might as well do that in the morning first thing, and then send them to class in a better frame of mind, ready to go so that when something does happen, then they have a chance to like come back and talk to me about it.

'cause I've already said, Hey, you're gonna have a rough time today. I can tell because of how you came into my office. So when you need a break, like let's chat. Let's figure out a way to get you the support that you need so that you're not doing something that's going to damage your relationships, put you in a disciplined situation and make your life overall miserable.

That's not [00:23:00] what anybody wants. And on that subject of time, that's one of the major complaints about restorative practices is that it takes time because it does. And getting all the right people in the room, that takes a lot of time. How do you address the issue of it just takes time.

So I think Jethro, what you were talking about before too, is like you're gonna, you're gonna be spending time on student discipline and behavior regardless, right? So how much do you want to spend? Do you wanna send it on the front end or do you wanna send it on the back end? Right? And for me, like trying to do an investigation, sending a kid to ISS or OSS and then have them come back and then it just become a cycle over and over, I can assure you that's gonna take way more time by the end of the school year. Because nothing's been resolved than doing the restorative practice. So I would rather go into a circle and get everybody that I need to as far as that collaborative space and trying to figure out, you know, how to teach the student the correct behavior and emotionally irregulate and how to go through adverse [00:24:00] situations in the front part of the school year.

And hopefully, like I said, build these skills for them so that at the back end of the school year. I'm not having to deal with the same issues. Right. But if I'm just throwing a kid in I ss or OSS ho honestly, that doesn't, it's not teaching them anything. Right. It's just essentially, it's a fear based discipline.

And so. As we see in data, and as most of us know, like that's not going to change a lot of the folks, especially if the student's been through trauma. So whenever I hear about time, it's like, yeah, it does take time and you can't do it alone. I've tried, it can't be done right. So I had to find other people.

I, I leaned heavily on my campus with my counselors. I leaned heavily on. Those people who wanted to become administrators someday. You know, every year I had between three and five teachers that had gone through their master's program or were going through their master's program, and they wanted to learn about how to be an administrator.

Well, I. You need to know about student discipline, right? So I always had a team of people, we had a relationship action team that was created where I, these were [00:25:00] key components to the restorative practices. So I would lean on them heavily to say, okay, this is the, this is what needs to happen. Will you please lead this restorative circle with.

You know, this person, this student, and they would be able to facilitate that and, you know, communicate to those who need it. So, to say, okay, I have 1500 school students on my campus and I'm gonna do every restorative circle that's just as nine. That, that can't happen. So, I had my, you know, SEL clerk who, you know, which was our ISS back in the day reforms. They were also trained so they knew how to run a resource circle. So like I just had a whole. Group of folks that knew and was trained about this work and that I could lean on and, you know, really delineate what needed to be done because I tried and failed at trying to do it all myself. So I had to, you know, bring other folks into that process.

So, you mentioned earlier about the language of behavior. You've [00:26:00] got a book coming out on that same topic. Why don't you tell us a little bit about the language of behavior as a whole and where to get your book when it comes out? I.

Oh my goodness. So I have the wonderful privilege of writing with Charlie P. She is an amazing educator. She's speaking all over the country and she also has another book out on more on mental health. But yeah, we're. we're. partnering to create the language of behavior where it's really talking about just trauma, how it affects the students as far as their brain, their emotional wellbeing, whatnot. And then also, you know, as far as a school, what can we do to one, decipher what's going on within the behavior because it's really hard. You know, if a kid is eloping from the classroom and hiding in the bathroom, like yes, it's an odd behavior, but there's something also behind that, right? So, once we are figuring out what's going on in the life of the student, what are we doing on campus?

So it's really, you know, as far as Charlie's background as a social worker, mine as an administrator, what are, what were things that we implemented into our schools? [00:27:00] To benefit the whole student body, but then also to make sure that we're identifying what's going on in the lives of our kids and making sure that we have things in place, like I said before, to teach them the correct behavior, how to regulate their emotions, but then also be in tune with what's going on in their lives because I. I dunno about you, Jeff, about some of my eighth graders. They looked like they were married, they had kids and they were driving to school, but they were so immature and they didn't have the skills to be able to go through stressful situations. And it was very prevalent, but a lot of times teachers and administrators just assumed because of how they looked, that they possessed those skills.

And so, you know, it's just going through of talking through like the relationship action team that I built and how we implemented things on our campus and really getting the nitty gritty for folks to be able to use these strategies. Implement them and understand that it's not gonna happen overnight. That's years of work that goes into that. But just how the shift and the change in the culture all these strategies really help the campus.

They [00:28:00] really do. And that's the powerful thing is that behavior is another language, another way for people to communicate. And if we can take a little bit of time to learn what that looks like, I think we're gonna, we're gonna be in good shape. You brought up the, this idea of kids looking older, therefore looking like they have.

The skills that they, that we think they should have. And this is one of the major mistakes that we make in education all the time. You know, my nephew is is adopted from Samoa and he is a big kid and he's the same age as my daughter, but he is like. Probably a foot taller, at least already, and bigger, and you just forget so quickly that he's only 6, 10, 12, whatever age he happens to be at the time.

You forget so quickly that he's just a little kid and he may look a lot older and a lot bigger, but it's so easy to [00:29:00] just to assume that he's older and. And it's a mistake that we often make and through no fault of our own, it's just, you know, we're around people who look like this and so we think they have these skills and they just don't.

And then when you add in trauma to that, that can stunt their growth and their development as well. That makes it really challenging. Also, and you may not see the things that prove that they're not quite. As old, maturity wise, as they may look. And I think that's just something to, something that we need to remember and pay attention to.

So Josh, would you share how people can learn more from you and get in touch with you and connect with the work that you do?

Yeah, of course. So, uh, my website's josh samper.com and you know, if you wanna learn more, I've got several blogs on there. And actually I wrote 'em with my wife. So, we were foster parents for 12 years. So my wife has kind of written more on the parent side of things and I. Definitely talking about the admin side. But I think there's a lot of [00:30:00] overlap with that. And, you know, we just talk about a lot of times just the trauma and what that looks like, but then also the fact, like you had said, you know, sometimes the maturity level is literally cut in half. So if you have a 12-year-old, they probably are looking like a 6-year-old as far as the behavior and some of the things that they're working with. And that's just one of the aspects of, of trauma in life. So, josh.com, social media, Joshua Stampers, so Twitter slash x or Instagram and you follow me there. Or you can just email me at joshua com. Love to answer any questions you have.

Yeah. Very good. Thank you so much for being here and in the show notes@resilientschools.com I've got your link to your website and so people can definitely go check that out. And thank you so much for being here and for sharing your wisdom with the Resilient Schools podcast. I.

Oh goodness. It was an honor to speak with you today. Thank you so.


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