Restorative Practice for your Schools with a Listening for a Change Approach can:

  • Develop a school environment where students and staff feel respected, heard, and connected with others.

  • Develop social-emotional intelligence and build social and human capital.

  • Increase the school community’s ability to communicate and address changes.

  • Build a campus community that embraces both shared values and differences – a place for healing and inclusion.

Storytelling is a Core Tenet of Restorative Practices:

Storytelling offers a unique and familiar way for students to engage with one another and lay the foundation for developing healthy relationships. Listening for a Change is built on the conviction that we Create Connections, One Story at a Time and it is imperative we find meaningful ways to understand the rich and complex cultures among us.

Unfortunately, storytelling is not simple. It involves:

  • Active Listening
  • Understanding and Acceptance
  • Personal Reflection
  • Time
  • Asking follow-up questions

Creating Connections—One Story at a Time …because listening to stories helps pave a way to understanding


The Restorative Practice Pyramid

Too often, we neglect to prioritize important aspects of our daily lives. For students, it’s no different. Learning to understand different perspectives and valuing the experiences of others is critical to their social-emotional development. The Restorative Justice Pyramid identifies the following as school-wide prevention practices to conflict.

1. Develop healthy relationships
2. Identify common values and guidelines
3. Develop social-emotional understanding and skills
4. Promote and strengthen sense of belonging and ownership


The idea is that if preventative issues are addressed at the base, and difficulties are managed at the second tier, there will be fewer in need of intensive intervention at the top tier.  (Restorative Justice: A Working Guide for Our Schools, Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, School Health Services Coalition)

Listening for a Change can help schools foster a culture that integrates Restorative Practices into classrooms, hallways, cafeterias and beyond to create a respectful and reflective environment that advances and supports conflict resolution processes.

Inquiry Support and Training for School Staff, Administration, and Parents to:

  • Investigate Needs of the School Culture through questionnaires, small groups, focus groups, etc. stakeholders are asked what they know about creating an academic community of respect and problem solving and what is needed to work toward this goal
  • Facilitate workshops where participants share stories, practice active listening skills, and learn how to ask questions that elicit stories and grant access to personal wisdom. These activities foster trust, understanding, and enhance relational practices.
  • Support “Relational Practices.” How individuals relate to one another and help build a cohesive, caring, school community
    • Allow school staff to discover student assets, dreams, passions, contexts, etc., which will allow staff to engage students in meaningful and relevant ways
  • Help create authentic caring, cariño Authentic caring can become a structured and integral component of curriculum with high school students (Valenzuela, Subtractive Schooling).
  • Help school stakeholders define and teach respect and inclusion. Helps schools create pro-active experiences in order for students to be heard before they are caught in a troubled web. Then, if rules are broken students experience an expanded way in which to have their voices heard, reflection fostered, and restoration becomes a possibility.
  • Support teachers by providing activities and curriculum to incorporate active listening and social-emotional development into the classroom.
    • Our curriculum integrates storytelling and critical thinking with Common Core and California Standards in language arts and social studies. It is also well incorporated into Advancing Via Individual Determination (AVID) and classes that incorporate social/emotional development
  • Support Restorative Justice Circles because engagement with others in a trusting manner is a concept that is critical in Circles. It is also a major factor in engaging stakeholders of a school community. Listening for a Change’s 3-way interviews are an excellent means to increase understanding, trust, and acceptance. Listening for a Change facilitates improving questions and follow-up questions to aid in the process. In addition, the impact is greater when participants take time to hear and reflect upon other people’s stories.

School-Wide Practices

Implement consistent, ongoing opportunities for students, staff, parents, and community members to develop and improve relationships with one another.

  • Weekly/monthly activities for students to share their perspective or experience related to specific topics such as bullying or feeling left out
  • Mini-lessons for classes to encourage each student to share specific aspects of their personal narrative with their peers
  • Student panel(s) that interview a wide range of school/community members to learn how they have overcome challenges and resolved problems
  • Family members are invited and included to share their stories, acquire better listening skills, and participate in workshops


Neighborhood Listening Project

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Listening for a Change trains students in oral history and active listening skills in multiple schools.

After in-depth training sessions for a minimum of six hours,panels of three to six students interview community members invited by the students. Listening for a Change records each hour-long interview with professional video cameras. Our staff video editor collaborates with students to distill significant insights into 5-8 minute videos. All edited videos are translated into Spanish or English; translations are posted as they are completed on the white half-screen next to the image of the interviewee. These videos are also shared through public access television, school assemblies, other websites, and touch-screen Mobile Interactive Museums.

Through the process of story, questioning, and reflection, students dispel the notions of otherness and lay a foundation for eliminating bullying and violence. Hearing the experiences, advice, and wisdom of interviewees, students gain new insight and options for transformative change and empowerment. The Neighborhood Listening Project thus effectively integrates equity and social justice studies into existing school curricula.

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Essence of Acceptance

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Adera Cal-SAFE

Essence of Acceptance is a project-based, service-learning curriculum for secondary schools that uses the power of the human voice and sharing of personal experiences to communicate important lessons of human rights.  Through the process of taking oral histories from community members who have lost human and/or civil rights, students develop a deeper understanding of other cultures, perspectives, and histories.

This process helps young people understand the real and present consequences of human rights violations through direct interaction with those who have personally experienced them.  By extension,  students draw connections between these experiences and seemingly unrelated examples of intolerance in their own daily lives (e.g., students using the label “gay” as an insult) –  leading them to be more vigilant about their own attitudes and those of their peers.

The Essence of Acceptance curriculum, which meets California state standards for Social Studies and Language Arts, is divided into four sections: Human Rights, Oral History, Interview, and Community:

mchs_photos_student_res_ec7-2Students study the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the human rights protections in the constitutions of multiple countries, which provide the academic framework for student exploration of the meaning of human rights. Students develop their own set of inviolable basic human rights which form the basis for their analysis and understanding of the subsequent oral histories they conduct. 

mchs_photos_student_res_ec7-9Students learn “empathic listening” skills to interview community members who have suffered human rights violations. These listening and interviewing skills translate into not only a very practical skill set often missing in traditional school settings, but also invite the critical thinking process. Students learn to ask open-ended and follow-up questions, to pursue their curiosity, and to form opinions of their own. 

mchs_photos_student_res_ec7-3Program organizers invite community members from diverse cultural and ethnic groups who have suffered a loss of human and/or civil rights into to the classroom to share their personal stories of discrimination and loss. Students learn to respectfully and formally take oral histories, and they honor interviewees by allowing them to share their story in a way that turns loss and tragedy into a powerful learning experience.Students gain first-hand cultural, geographic, and historical knowledge by interviewing people from around the world. Students at participating schools have interviewed community residents from countries such as China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Eritrea, Guatemala, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Mexico, and Pakistan, as well as African Americans, Japanese Americans, Native Americans, and survivors of the Shoah/Holocaust. 

student_work_descriptions-4aStudents respond to their oral history experience through social action as well as through various art forms, such as fine art, video, and creative writing. Students, teachers, and Listening for a Change each maintain a network of community groups who welcome student support. Students also share responsive art projects with the community at large in venues such as museums, libraries, schools, shopping centers, community events, and other public places. This gives young people the opportunity to contribute their own creative work and activism to the communities in which they live, something often missing in traditional school settings.


Due to the complexity of the subject matter, the Listening for a Change staff seek to provide training to help teachers implement the curriculum in the classroom.  Please contact Listening for a Change for more information.  Read the testimonials

Restorative Justice Programs:
Neighborhood Listening Project
Essence of Acceptance


“Underlying Restorative Justice is the vision of interconnectedness. We are all connected to each other and the larger world through a web of relationships. When this web is disrupted, we are all affected. But the value of interconnectedness must be balanced by an appreciation of particularity.” Howard Zehr, The Little Book of Restorative Justice

“Storytelling is fundamental for healthy social relationships. To feel connected and respected we need to tell our own stories and have others listen. Having others listen to your story is a function of power in our culture. The more power you have, the more people will listen respectfully to your story. Consequently, listening to someone’s story is a way of empowering them, of validating their intrinsic worth as a human being.” (Pranis, K. (2001). Building Justice on a Foundation of Democracy, Caring and Mutual Responsibility (manuscript held by Minnesota Department of Corrections)

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