We at TCICP know that creating and sustaining inclusive practices for students who display all kinds of differences and labeled disabilities is powerful, but we also recognize that it does not come without costs. The cost of energy, spirit, and sometimes even the will to keep on keepin’ on can be detrimental to the individuals supporting the complex and beautiful work of creating opportunities for access and participation for all students. That being said, TCICP enlisted staff member Angel Acosta to lead a workshop on restorative and healing pedagogies on April 21 to support educators dealing with the stresses of teaching, developing ways to engage in self and collective care. Kass Minor had an opportunity to discuss how Angel’s experiences in schools and doctoral studies led him to the work of restorative pedagogies, and how educators participating in the upcoming workshop might help them to restore themselves amidst the stressful backdrop of school environments.
Angel Acosta has spent the last decade supporting schools with college and career readiness programs. For the past three years, he has immersed himself in a doctorate program in the Curriculum and Teaching department at Teachers College, Columbia University. He’s worked with students and administrators in over 150 urban and rural schools. Having the opportunity to serve as an educator for so many, he began to notice the deep impact of poverty in school communities. From those experiences, he knew that college and career readiness programs were not enough to sustain and energize futures for youth impacted by poverty, racism, and social inequality-particularly because educators working with those youth were plagued with teacher burnout and secondary trauma.
To deal with burnout, Angel knows that teachers needed more than what typical professional development offer: they need support with managing the emotional labor of creating healthy and positive learning environments, and even within their own personal lives. Concurrent to his work in school communities, Angel began developing his own mindfulness and meditation practice. Committed to social justice and care for the general well-being of educators, Angel decided to carve a research path in his doctoral studies, attempting to achieve healing and restoration. This work eventually led him to collaborate with folks to build restorative and healing pedagogies both within and outside schools.
While restoration and healing are not words typically associated with teaching and learning, Angel explains what those things might look like within the landscape of school:
Restoration and healing pedagogies vary in school communities, depending on the level of commitment and interest from those initiating the work. On a large scale, if there’s buy in from administration, a whole school might adopt a restorative justice approach to discipline instead of punitive approaches. Schools might also implement a five minute morning meditation program that is formally introduced into the advisory. In some school districts, the entire school community meditates together. There are different ways to approach it. In the workshop, we will focus on the individual teacher.
For individuals, Angel explains that restorative pedagogies can take shape as a framework through which one creates curricula and listens to students. Angel describes a microcosm of this work, saying, “One way to support restorative and healing pedagogies is to help teachers find ways to incorporate mindfulness and restorative practices into their classrooms. Aside from the content they are teaching, we find ways to teach students about how slowing down and being in tune with their breath and the health of their mind actually increase the learning of the subject matter being taught in the first place.”
The work of slowing down and restoring the balance of oneself in turbulent times is multi-faceted. TCICP encourages any educator to participate in our workshop, where Angel will lead, facilitate, and talk alongside the group, calling educators to slow down, helping them to incorporate more paced, healthy strategies and mechanisms into their pedagogy to have more healthy experiences in their teaching life. Register for this workshop here.