Creating a Strong Culture Through Restorative Practices
On Thursday and Friday this week, the administrative and support team along with twelve teachers from both the main campus and Bulldog Tech campus participated in a training to help us improve our school culture. We also noted participants from 8 other Evergreen schools. The training was from the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP). We all came out of excited to explore some new and powerful strategies to support our school culture.
RESTORATIVE PRACTICES According to IIRP, "Restorative practices is an emerging social science that studies how to strengthen relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities." Restorative Practices is an approach to supporting students (and adults) with conflict, struggles, and wrongdoing by using a range of highly structured and supportive strategies to repair harm and build or restore relationships. The goal to success in any setting is strong relationships. The strategies range from affective statements and questions to using circles and conferences.
AFFECTIVE STATEMENTS This is a simple shift in our language that can help set boundaries and provide feedback. Simply put, affective statements are a way to express feelings and help bring perspective to any situation. For example, rather than say, "Stop talking," the affective statement could be "I am frustrated that you are talking while I am teaching." By adding the feeling, a student is able to internalize the affect on the teacher. This can work peer to peer as well.
AFFECTIVE QUESTIONS Conflict is inevitable, but with affective questioning, we are able to take on misunderstandings, competing needs, and differences of opinions with the intent to foster learning and build relationships. Let's say a student was referred to the office for disrespecting a substitute teacher. A traditional approach may be to assign the student detention or some other consequence based on the referral. With a restorative approach, we would begin by asking the student questions like these: "What happened? What were you thinking at the time? What impact did your actions have on others?" By involving the student's perspective in the process and helping him or her think about the perspective of other's involved, we are able to "make things right" and build empathy to support less reoccurrences of the same behavior.
Affective questions are not only used to problem solve conflict, but also can be used to help those affected in peer to peer conflicts.
CIRCLES Circles is a strategy that can be used in a variety of different settings for a variety of purposes. Circles are simply a group taking turns standing or sitting in a circle. Circles can be used in the classroom to share feelings on a topic, generate ideas to a problem, or to establish norms and routines. Circles can be used in other settings, too. In the office, we can bring a group of students together who are in a disagreement and allow them to share feelings, get to the root of the problem, and repair the relationship before it turns into a verbal or physical aggression.
CONFERENCES This is for more extreme or serious situations such as bullying, fighting, or harassment. A conference allows the person who was harmed and the person who caused the harm to talk to make things right.
This is just a small taste of a what was a very powerful and complex training. Building a system where everyone can manage conflict and struggle is key tp having a strong and caring school culture. Conflict is inevitable, but the way we manage it needs to be taught and nurtured. We plan on doing another round of training for more staff in January. Look for more to come on restorative practices.