A Conversation with Frankie Mendoza, IDEA Bluff Springs College Preparatory Teacher: Restorative Circles
Welcome. If you’ve come here, you’ve probably read “Restorative Circles,” in IMPACT Magazine’s Student Takeover! If not, be sure to check it out on page 40 of our newest issue.
Now, let’s dive a little deeper into Restorative Justice Circles.
We sat down with Frankie Mendoza, IDEA Bluff Springs College Preparatory teacher, to talk about the practice he started with his scholars, and why it’s paying off.
Get to Know Mr. Mendoza
Name: Frankie Mendoza, Founding IDEA Bluff Springs College Preparatory Teacher
Favorite Book: The Bible
Favorite Food: Italian Food
What is Restorative Justice?
“Restorative Justice is based on principles and processes that emphasize the importance of positive relationships as central to building community and repairing relationships. The underlying premise of Restorative Justice is that people are happier, more cooperative, more productive, and more likely to make positive changes when those in positions of authority do things with them rather than to them or for them.”
What does the process look like?
“The process looks like this:
1. Chairs are placed in a physical circle, enough chairs for all participating members with no additional furniture blocking any participants
2. The facilitator is called the “keeper”, and leads the meeting (may possibly be led by a scholar)
3. The keeper makes introductory comments, often including a discussion of the values that guide the success of the process, and may place the written values/positive agreements on the floor in the middle of the circle for all participants to see.
4. The keeper poses a question or topic (of which depends on the purpose of the circle)
5. A talking piece is introduced and passed, usually clockwise around the circle
6. The only person authorized to speak is the person holding the talking piece (one person at a time), participants may choose not to speak if they wish.
7. When a person is finished speaking, they pass the talking piece onwards to the next person.
8. The process of passing the talking piece around the circle may continue for a number of rounds. Since only one person speaks at a time, it’s important to offer participant’s a chance to reflect on what the others are saying in the circle.”
What do you like about Restorative Justice Circles?
“The circle process provides a way to bring people together. Everyone is respected and gets a chance to talk without interruption. Participants explain themselves by telling their stories. Everyone is equal—no person is more important than anyone else. Emotional aspects of individual experiences are welcome
I can’t get anywhere in my teaching if I don’t have a Team & Family relationship with my scholars and families. Restorative Justice Circles have led me to enjoy my job, attain academic goal (Level 4 Teacher), and 100% homeroom scholar and family persistence.
Plus, having circles is contagious. Circles allow scholars to create their own plan of actions to make it right with teachers, peers, family, campus and their community. As a teacher, we can’t just punish if we don’t know the root of the action.
You know, I have not missed a day of work since I started working for IDEA in August of 2016. Using circles has led my homeroom to have 100% perfect attendance for an entire month. We reflect on why attendance is important. What we do affects others. If someone misses school, we talk about next steps on how to get better as a family. Currently, my homeroom "The Bobcats," has the best attendance on campus, and I'm proud of that."
Switching gears, can you tell us what you wanted to be when you grew up?
“I wanted to be an actor and a rapper. I struggled in school. In fact, I barley finished high school. Since 3rd grade I had to attend summer school to pass to the next grade. While in college, I dropped out and headed to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an actor and rapper. Well, I failed and worked as a package delivery driver. Then, I quit work and went to college full-time. I became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Mu Nu Chapter at Texas State University-San Marcos. The organization inspired me to be a servant leader and be a part of the youth who march onward and upward towards the light of college and youth. I found myself teaching after I graduated college and have been in education ever since. I love it here at IDEA Bluff Springs.”