Perspectives on Early Childhood Psychology and Education

Submission Type



The current climate of education often results in surveillance of outcomes and accountability in early childhood learning and management, especially in schools serving Black, Indigenous, and Children of Color. Historically, classroom management has been about controlling students, the environment, and ultimately what and how learning takes place. In response, centering restorative justice as a humanizing approach to classroom management is necessary to focus on equity. However, this focus can be filled with tensions and conflicting philosophies against the status quo in schools. Likewise, classroom community practices, including punitive and restorative discipline, are typically looked at separately from academic learning, without consideration of the interconnected pedagogical decisions that undergird experiences for students. Positioning an either/or mentality can result in a dichotomy of what is good and bad in education that obscures the complexities and nuance of teachers’ work. This interpretive case study examines intersections of academics and community building to understand a sense of belonging in an early childhood classroom. This study illustrates how one kindergarten community navigated opposing perspectives and pedagogies. Discourse analysis revealed findings of how the class traversed the complexity of languaging to build community in a context self-identified as restorative, while also implementing highly structured literacy curricula, and a mix of discipline philosophies. This study humanizes tensions experienced within the constraints of the current educational system as teachers and young children build towards restorative justice as a way of being.