Shaping Relational, Restorative Schools: Insights from Kerri Berkowitz’s Journey

Kerri Berkowitz, a visionary and relentless advocate for restorative educational practices, shared her invaluable experiences and insights garnered from over a decade of hands-on involvement with school districts of varied demographics. The session transcended traditional pedagogy, shedding light on the profound significance of nurturing connection, understanding, and mutual respect in the educational setting.

Drawn to the undeniable power of relationships in the classroom during her early years as a school social worker in San Francisco, Berkowitz soon carved a niche for herself as the Restorative Practices Manager for the San Francisco Unified School District. The comprehensive resources she developed during this period, including an instructive website and a detailed implementation guide, have since become staples for educators and practitioners seeking guidance on fostering restorative environments.

However, Berkowitz’s mission didn’t stop there. Recognizing the need for a broader platform, she founded the Center for Relational Practices in 2014, further extending her reach to assist schools across North America. From the snow-capped peaks of Alaska (her beloved adventuring spot) to urban and rural schools alike, Berkowitz’s dedication has been instrumental in transforming educational environments into places where every student feels they truly belong.

In her presentation, Berkowitz distilled her extensive 12-year journey into a series of actionable strategies, candid reflections, and real-world case studies. She began by addressing the fundamental question: Why is there a need for relational, restorative schools? Berkowitz underscored the holistic benefits of such an approach, ranging from improved academic achievement and enhanced school climate to the overall emotional well-being of students.

A significant portion of her presentation revolved around the often challenging task of achieving buy-in from critical stakeholders: the school staff, parents, and the students themselves. Through anecdotes and case studies, Berkowitz shared effective strategies for communicating the vision and underscored the importance of collaborative engagement.

A standout feature of the presentation was Berkowitz’s detailed walkthrough of creating a sustainable strategy and implementation action plan. Drawing from her firsthand experiences, she introduced attendees to the step-by-step process of launching an effective Implementation Team and seamlessly integrating school-wide initiatives.

Recognizing the critical role of professional development, Berkowitz also detailed the nuances of a school-wide professional development rollout, emphasizing the importance of continuous learning for educators in a restorative framework.

Perhaps one of the most impactful segments was her candid discussion on the mistakes to avoid. In her signature forthright manner, Berkowitz shared lessons learned from missteps and misconceptions, ensuring that attendees could benefit from her experiences and sidestep potential pitfalls.

In conclusion, Kerri Berkowitz’s presentation was more than just an informative session; it was a clarion call for educators everywhere to prioritize relationships and holistic well-being in their teaching environments. Attendees left not only with a treasure trove of practical strategies and resources but also with a renewed sense of purpose, inspired to champion the cause of relational, restorative schools in their respective communities.