Educating Educators on Restorative Practices. Member Spotlight: Jim Longo

Jim Longo is a Professor and Chair of the Education Department at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania. Jim is a trained historian and his education background and primary areas of research include gender equity and the role of women in history. He is a member of MBBI’s Internship Task Force, which creates more meaningful internship and volunteer experiences while expanding MBBI’s reach and impact. He is adamant about teaching future teachers mediation techniques, especially restorative practices.

Women’s Role in Mediation and the Engagement of Young Peacebuilders

Alongside his wife and fellow MBBI member Mary Jo Harwood, Jim presented at MBBI’s 7th Congress in Bucharest, Romania, on the role of women in mediation; myth, history, and reality. The MBBI 7th Congress gave him the perfect opportunity to learn international mediation techniques while also showcasing his breadth and depth of knowledge on the role of women in mediation.

Through MBBI’s 7th Congress, Jim became connected with Mary Montague, the 2015 MBBI Peacemaker of the Year winner who was a nurse in Belfast, Northern Ireland, during the Troubles, sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, was also a front line peacebuilder well before and even after the peace treaty was signed. She is also a founding member of the Women Waging Peace global network. Jim invited Mary to Washington and Jefferson College (WJC) to teach his students about global mediation strategies which helped set up the conflict resolution studies program at WJC.

In some contexts, particularly those in which there is a history of violence, there is a need for community healing and for support in overcoming traumatic experiences, before dialogue or negotiation can even begin. These specific practices focused on restoring the community had become the cornerstone of Mary’s mediation career and coincidentally, of Jim’s educational background. With Mary’s expertise and Jim’s role as an educator, he created a new initiative at WJC focusing on restorative practice.

Furthermore, Jim takes his students to schools in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Dublin, Ireland; and Leeds, England, to learn about mediation techniques and to set up an international partnership and pen pal engagement program. In Ireland, a recent law mandates that restorative practices must be taught in all schools. In continuation of his penpal program and restorative practice initiative at WJC, Jim went to a conference in Ireland of April 2018 to promote and support restorative practices.

It has never been a more crucial time for us to listen with our ears, head, and heart. Relationships built through restorative practice are the oxygen people and communities need to survive and thrive.

Teaching Mediation to Teachers

Before becoming a professor, Jim was a public school teacher for over a decade, at a school that was undergoing racial integration. It became immensely obvious to Jim that his role as a teacher became intertwined with mediation strategies as many conflicts arose as a result of integration. Ensuring that each student is able to process the education they are receiving is just as important as the education itself, and so mediation techniques became a large portion of Jim’s teaching career. This experience prompted him to study and research not only mediation strategies for teachers, but also the curriculum itself. His doctoral degree in Teaching, Curriculum, and Learning Environments is a testament to his direct experiences in the public school system during integration as well as his emphasis on gender equity.

In the vein of creating inclusive classrooms, Jim teaches his students, especially those that will become teachers these restorative practices. “Teachers are more than just educators; they are mediators, community organizers, and advocates for their students.” Teachers are the most important mediators in a child’s life as issues between students, between teachers, between parents, and within the community will arise. Teaching mediation techniques is vital, as teachers will absolutely encounter scenarios where mediation strategies will need to be used in the classroom.

Article by Ben Lutz, MBBI Writer