Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Restorative Justice Practices

How are we doing???  Can we as educators say that we are decreasing the inappropriate behaviour in classrooms and schools and increasing academic and social outcomes for our students?

These can be difficult questions to answer especially when we are so entangled in maybe the chaos that might be occurring within the school or the entire system.  Looking at new ways of helping children reach their potential is imperative if we are to move forward with an educational model that is sustainable and exceptional.  Behaviour difficulties in the classroom seems to be a prevalent topic within this discussion and probably one of the major factors in the chaos schools are experiencing as well as the classrooms.  What kind of approach is your school adopting when it comes to disruptive or inappropriate behaviour?

Restorative Justice Practices have been implemented in many schools across the country and across the world.  Many innovative educators have looked at the number of suspensions and behaviour related referrals and have decided that school is not "jail" and that a punitive approach is just not working anymore.  They have decided to use restorative methods to engage children in the effects of their behaviour on others and have input into the consequences and outcomes.

The issue with punitive methods is that it does not necessarily address the root cause of the behaviour and the intention is to punish the student so they will stop the behaviour.  What if they have difficulty processing the outcome because of a neurophysiological disability.  In my experience the restorative discussion has way more impact on the student then sending them to detention to "think about" what they have done.  The conferencing circle allows all parties to communicate their feelings and attitudes towards the event and what can be done in the future.  It helps the person "in trouble" to understand the impact of their behaviour and commit to a plan to repair the damaged relationships.

Children make mistakes and learn to either continue or discontinue the behaviour depending upon the consequence following the event.  If we are to help children unravel the complexities of social relationships we have to teach them how to do that.  There are a number of social emotional skills required along this journey to make life a little easier when navigating a challenge.  Some children don't always know "what" to do so we as educators and parents need to be there to redirect them so that they feel good about the decisions they ultimately make.

Schools are meant to provide safe, supportive environments where children can learn and thrive.  When the policies implemented do not follow this philosophy, children are confused and eventually inappropriate behaviour increases because they do not feel protected or safe.  We need to nurture relationships that enhance a child's love of learning and teach them that school is a safe place to express themselves.


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