Bringing Restorative Practices to Your School
Restorative practises are being encouraged in schools across the country as an alternative to suspensions, which disproportionately affect children of colour.
Restorative methods, on the other hand, do more than simply replace punitive approaches to discipline. They have the potential to significantly improve school atmosphere as well as young people’s and adults’ social and emotional abilities. Instead than utilising punishments and rewards to influence how children behave, restorative techniques address the underlying causes of students’ harmful behaviour and cultivate their natural desire to care for and respect others.
Transitioning to restorative practises is difficult. Here are six things we’ve learnt from implementing these strategies in NYC public schools.
1. Restorative techniques emphasise community building and interpersonal strengthening. Restorative techniques are based on the belief that when we feel a member of a supportive community, we respect and are accountable to others in that community. This sense of community can be fostered in schools through daily or weekly circles, advising, or any class, as long as instructors are given the support they need to facilitate the practises. Participants gain a greater understanding of one another through circles, which foster empathy and connection. Adults can contribute to the effort by demonstrating collaborative and courteous behaviour. Adults can form their own circles to provide a safe environment in which they can connect and explore issues.
A talking piece, a paper cube, is passed around the circle of students.
2. Circles are effective if the procedure is respected. Indigenous peoples’ traditions are borrowed by circles: You sit in a circle around a meaningful object for the group. You pass a talking piece around, and everyone, including the facilitator, must wait until the talking piece reaches them before speaking. No one is in command or an observer in a circle; everyone is both a participant and a keeper. Students can become co-keepers as they get more familiar with the circle procedure. All of these practises require discipline, but they are essential to the circle’s potency. Everyone has a rare opportunity to express how they are feeling and experiencing in Circle. Over time, circle transforms into a secure area where everyone feels heard and accepted. That’s priceless at a school — or anywhere else.
3. A programme that promotes abilities sequentially can enhance circles. Participants are naturally prompted to employ social and emotional skills they may not have completely developed, such as active listening, managing intense emotions, and respecting differences. A structured curriculum can help circle keepers develop these skills over time.
4. You have a variety of restorative responses to choose from when difficulties arise. Circle provides a framework that can assist prevent problems as well as deal with them when they occur. To solve problems, you can employ a mediation method or a group problem-solving session. A restorative intervention may be necessary if a major injury occurs: The individual who causes the harm meets with others, which frequently includes the person who has been hurt. They discuss the problem and come up with a solution. The person who did the injury has the opportunity to fully comprehend the consequences of their actions, to be heard and understood, to repair the damage, and to be welcomed back (restored) into the society. This has a significantly more positive and long-term impact on a person than punishment or banishment. Everyone else can benefit from the process as well.
5. Everyone must participate in the gradual transformation. It needs skill to use healing techniques. It’s ideal if the restorative practises specialist/coordinator is a regular part of the school staff. However, everyone in the school must endorse the strategy. This is difficult since using harm as an educational moment (rather than a punishment opportunity) goes against many ingrained habits and cultural attitudes. As a result, making the switch to restorative methods should be done gradually.
6. A dedicated principal and school-wide planning are required. It takes time and dedication to make the move to restorative practises. The administrator should ideally gather a collaborative committee (including students) to rethink and reconstruct the school’s discipline policy, as well as develop a phased implementation strategy that includes staff support.
Restorative methods have a powerful impact on many people. “We discovered that we hadn’t had a single fight — physical or verbal — in 12 weeks,” says the principal of a Bronx school that implemented them. It’s because we’ve been cultivating a culture of trust. We’ve established a civil and respectful environment.” This type of environment is beneficial to both students and teachers.