Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Restorative Conversations

Restorative Justice for K12 was my first exposure to this different approach to behavior management a year ago. Over the last two days I have attended a workshop on Restorative Practices run by Greg and Richard of restorativeschools.org.nz who delivered practical and informative workshop on Restorative Conversations. Aside from great food, Greg and Richard kept us focussed by scaffolding and modelling good practices. I often wonder why we teachers so often revert back to direct intsruction when delivering proffessional development to our colleagues.

I like the fact they they call it Restorative Conversations, Restorative Justice still has that old punative judgement ring to it. I now see that it is more about listening and calm conversations. It is about realising the effects of behaviour on those around you, taking ownership and making it right.

We begun by exploring our own and school values because like any path of growth you need to know where you stand now. This led us to explore punative (What rule has been broken? Who do we punish?) verses restorative responses (Who has been affected and how? What needs to happen to put things right?). We then went on to examining the types of restorative practices. For each type we did role play, and even though I was just in a role I could feel the power of the scripted questions which cut to the heart of problems, revealed feelings and required reflection to respond. Powerful stuff!

The Pyramid of Restorative Practices has at its base the Restorative Conversations that would be quick daily classroom chats. The next step, Mini Conferences, are for issues that require a facilitator (usually the classroom teacher) to solve the conflict. Next up is the Classroom Conference for bigger whole class issues, and lastly for the most serious problems, the Full Community Conference. Although at different levels, they all hold they same basic ideals and format.

The restorative process involves three key parts, adptly named the Three Keystones. The most important is the first, Preparation. Next is Participation which should run to a plan concieved in the preparation stage. Lastly and often the most forgotten, but a vital part, is the Follow-up (Have the consequences and support agreed upon been done? Have the relationships been repaired? Can both the victim and offender move forward with dignity?).

The basic restorative conversation is based on these four questions (from the handbook):
  1. What happened? (tell the story)
  2. Who do you think has been affected? (explore the harm)
  3. What do you need to put things right? (repair the damage)
  4. How can we make sure this doesn't happen again? (move forward)

If just a few students leave our schools knowing that they can resolve a serious conflict with their dignity intact, then we will have taught something far more valuable than any National Standard can measure. Some things I have taken to heart and plan to follow through on are, reconnecting with my students after they 'finish' any consequence steps by having restorative conversations, and starting a habit of having restorative conversations in our school.

Where does your school deal with behaviour issues?

Photo by Brymo