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  • Writer's pictureAnita Wadhwa

What safety looks like

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

Years ago, a group of like minded folks met regularly in Houston, often at my house, to eat, bond and discuss our interest in restorative justice. We called ourselves the Restorative Justice Collaborative of Houston (RJCH). Recently, disspirited by the pandemic, my own mental health struggles, and the intrusion of the state into what is taught in schools, I asked some of those people if they wanted to reboot RJCH. We met last month, and again today. It was our meeting today which prompted me to do something I have not done in a while, and that is to write. To write not out of despair or hurt, but out of a sense of awe and wonder about my own need for connection.

We followed an activity from the Little Book of Restorative Teaching Tools called "Mirror, Mirror." Using a beach ball my daughter got at Pride yesterday, we brainstormed what question we would ask. After answering the question, the next person was to reflect back what was heard, an exercise in empathetic listening. Some of the brainstorms included, "How are you healing your inner child?" and "What is a boundary that was crossed in your life recently?" We settled on, "What does safety look like to you?" For the next hour, we threw the ball and practiced close listening while my dog Shanti scampered from one person to the next, and my daughters yelled at one another in the background, playing with the granddaughter of RJCH member Janet. We debriefed about how hard it can be to listen closely and accurately reflect back what one has heard. We dissected the difference between risk, discomfort, and safety, and talked about how the activity could be tweaked when working with students in a classroom.

Next month we meet again. I look forward to having my cup filled, to feeling seen and not judged, and to practice embodying a restorative way of being as I transitition from an administrative role to a teaching role on a new campus. Thank you to the people who showed up as their authentic selves, holding space for one another. Circle is what safety looks like to me.

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