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Internship Report - Colin Johnson

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Conflict Resolution Institute

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Last winter 2018 I was fortunate enough to partake in an internship with Denver Public Schools (DPS), working with their office of Social Emotional Education. The DPS system has a stated initiative of introducing restorative programs in all of their schools and making it the district wide approach to disciplining students. The early data is promising and leading more school principals to adopt these practices and hire full-time restorative coordinators in their schools.

My background is in education and so I was happy to learn of a way in which I could take my existing experience and couple it with the knowledge and skills I was gaining in the Conflict Resolution program. At DPS I worked with Tim Turley who is part of the pioneering force behind the introduction of restorative practices (RP) into DPS. Tim is a familiar face in just about every public school in Denver, and is called regularly to oversee the facilitation of restorative circles and mediations in schools that do not have their own facilitators.

The bulk of my internship involved shadowing Tim as he made his rounds to various schools, facilitating trainings for school professionals, or hosting meetings for the restorative coordinators in the district. We were once called to a school to help facilitate a restorative circle for a group of young men who had been in a fight. Initially it took the boys a while to open up, but eventually they shared their thoughts. The young men were able to hear the harm that their actions had inflicted on the school community and on their mothers, and even apologized.

I also gained insight into the logistical and administrative support required to implement RP, working alongside Donna Cash and Allison Meier of DPS. I had the chance to sit in on meetings with leaders and learn about DPS's goals for expansion of RP within the district. I saw how essential it was to have community buy-in, especially from school staff and parents. One challenge with implementation is how to evaluate success. Through this internship I gained a lot of knowledge about the field of RP, the responsibilities of practitioners, and the challenges one can expect to encounter when entering this field. 

~Colin Johnson, MA '18