“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…” – 2 Corinthians 5:18
In 1966, when I first began teaching, corporal punishment was still widely employed in schools in Oklahoma. I took a misbehaving 6th grade boy to the principal and was horrified when I had to be the witness for his paddling. I vowed then and there to avoid taking any more students to that principal, and, if I ever became a principal, to find alternatives to physical punishment.
In 1972, we moved to Terre Haute, Indiana where Ron had a position as a reference librarian at Indiana State University. There’s a federal prison in Terre Haute, and Mike had been there for several years on drug charges. He was on a release program to take classes at Indiana State University and had lots of questions for the reference librarian. Soon, Ron was inviting him over for meals to meet me and our two young sons. He romped and played with the boys, and more importantly, introduced me to the concept of “restorative justice.” Mike was completing community service hours as a part of his re-entry program.
Fast forward to 1984, when we had returned to Tulsa, Oklahoma and I became a principal at Park Elementary. When I went to meet the retiring principal, he had a paddle hanging on the wall of his office. After almost 20 years, not much had changed with corporal punishment in Oklahoma.
The teachers, who were still using corporal punishment, were initially a little surprised when the students they sent to the office would come back with a plan to make right the offense they had committed. I was determined to implement the practice of reconciliation and restorative justice in my dealings with students. As a new principal, I had been told to listen, learn, and not change anything the first year. However, the teachers were intrigued and began to ask questions. Soon we were involved in studying the tenets of reconciliation and discussing ways to implement them throughout the building.
My ministry at that time, “administration” allowed the opportunity to implement reconciliation in place of punishment for our students. It was, indeed, well with my soul.
Thank you, God, for reconciling us to you through Christ and for giving us the ministry of reconciliation. Help us to follow your lead as we help heal and restore the world. Amen.