Navigating the Future of Higher Education: Leaf Seligman’s Vision for Restorative Teaching

In a presentation that combined wisdom, humor, and decades of experience, Leaf Seligman took the stage to address an issue deeply rooted in modern academia: the necessity of reimagining traditional teaching methodologies to reflect restorative values. In an era where information is at everyone’s fingertips, the role of classrooms, especially in colleges and universities, is evolving. Seligman’s discourse, titled “Teaching Restoratively”, delved into this transition, offering attendees both a philosophical understanding and practical strategies for transformation.

Drawing from her expansive academic journey – from her early days as a college student at the age of sixteen to her present role as an educator at Keene State College – Seligman highlighted the juxtaposition between content and delivery in current teaching practices. While topics related to restorative justice might be present in course outlines, the core ethos often remains absent in the actual delivery and environment of the class. It’s not just about what we teach, but how we teach, she stressed.

Employing a case study of two sections of a first-year thinking and writing course, Seligman identified the features, challenges, and advantages of teaching restoratively. One of the standout aspects of her discourse was her emphasis on the co-learner model, wherein both educators and students partake in the learning journey as equals. This egalitarian approach, she argued, fosters a sense of belonging, heals divides, and most importantly, equips participants to carry forward the principles of restorative justice into the world outside the classroom.

Furthermore, Seligman’s exploration of restorative teaching was framed within the unique challenges posed by the pandemic. With the world grappling with a crisis, the educator’s journey of maintaining connections, ensuring holistic learning, and nurturing student well-being was both insightful and inspiring. Interspersing her narrative with anecdotes, stories, and testimonies from her students, she beautifully showcased the tangible impact of restorative teaching methodologies.

Beyond the practicalities of the teaching approach, Seligman’s vast professional background added layers of depth to her arguments. As a parish minister, jail chaplain, circle-keeper, and community-based restorative practitioner, she brought a holistic view of community, relationships, and the true meaning of justice to the academic table. Her books, especially “From the Midway: Unfolding Stories of Redemption and Belonging”, further underlined her commitment to stories that heal and connect.

Closing her session, Seligman offered attendees an open invitation to continue the dialogue, sharing her website and direct contact details. The overarching sentiment that resonated from her presentation was clear: in the shifting sands of higher education, there’s a profound need to anchor teaching practices in restorative values. Not just for the betterment of the education system, but for the nurturing of a new generation equipped with the skills, empathy, and understanding to foster a more just and compassionate world.

In essence, Leaf Seligman’s presentation was a beacon of hope for educators worldwide, shedding light on the path forward, one rooted in connection, healing, and restorative values.