Restorative Practices: Part 1

Restorative Practices

To build a sense of community is to create a group that extends to others
the respect one has for oneself, to come to know one another as individuals,
to respond and care about one another, to feel a sense of membership
and accountability to the group.
– Thomas Lickona Ph. D

Close your eyes and consider for a moment a time when you felt fully embodied in your power, within a community. 

  • Who was supporting you? 
  • How did you acquire the resources to be successful? 
  • How much safety was required for you to feel your own power? 
  • Who was responsible for your safety?

As educators and parents, many of us hope to help our children develop self-trust, compassion, awareness, and strength. Restorative practices help us recognize the potential in fostering these traits within positive communities and group cultures in our classrooms and in our homes. The aim of this series is to provide practical information about how restorative practices can do just this!

What is Restorative Practice?
Restorative practice (RP) is a model utilized in classrooms to build equity through accountability and agency over education. Teachers using an RP model will operate with their students, as opposed to doing for or to them, or not doing at all (Stutzman & Mullet, 2005). This collaborative ownership of education is at the heart of RP and swings the pendulum away from traditional punitive consequences — suspensions, timeouts, etc. — and toward opportunity for repair and relationship. 

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Why Restorative Practice?
RP was founded on the principles of building trusting and healing relationships to strengthen a sense of community. The intention here is also to model the intrinsic care required for success beyond school and into adulthood (Hendry, 2010). In classrooms and homes, incorporating RP ideas can build a community culture, help resolve disputes, and manage conflict. With a restorative framework, the focus is placed on how to heal from harm rather than identifying a broken rule.

This system is a response to racial disparities between students with minority identities and white students receiving punitive disciplinary action. Research has offered clarity on the negative impacts of zero tolerance policies and suspension in relationship to violence and adverse childhood experiences. This is where the saying, “school to prison pipeline” comes from, and it is overwhelmingly clear that this is happening more frequently to students of color. RP presents an opportunity to shift this cycle. The addition of restorative justice in schools compels classroom equity and empowered learners (Kline, 2016).   

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Integrate RP in Home, Class, or Work
RP prioritizes community over content. To address when harm has occurred, ask questions that create space for both the perpetrator and the receiver to share their perception of what happened. It is helpful to leave room for both parties to share how they think things could be resolved or made right. With this method, each is invited to know their power and the impact of their presence in the community. 

Some guide RP questions you can use: 

  1. What happened? How did it happen?
  2. What have you thought about since?
  3. Who was affected by what happened?
  4. How were you affected by what happened?
  5. What can you do to make this right?
  6. What were you thinking/ feeling when this happened?
  7. Who was hurt? 
  8. What part did you play in it?
  9. What needs must be met?
  10. What was the hardest part?

Another application of RP is holding “circles,” to both strengthen culture and repair it when harm arises. Participants sit in a circle to address a proactive or restorative matter. RP functions best when the adults responsible for holding safe spaces for children are modeling the principles of RP with other adults. This means implementing circles with other adults in the workplace or using restorative questions when a disagreement or injustice occurs. 

Keep an eye on the blog for entry number two in this series.

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References and Resources
Costello, B., Wachtel, J., & Wachtel, T. (2019). The restorative practices handbook: For teachers, disciplinarians, and administrators. International Institute for Restorative Practices.

Hendry, R. (2010). Building and restoring respectful relationships in schools: A guide to using restorative practice. Routledge

Kline, D. M. S. (2016). Can restorative practices help to reduce disparities in school discipline data? A review of the literature. Multicultural Perspectives, 18(2), 97-102.

Morrison, B., Blood, P., & Thorsborne, M. (2005). Practicing restorative justice in school communities: Addressing the challenge of culture change. Public Organization Review, 5(4), 335-357.

Stutzman Amstutz, L., & Mullet, J. H. (2005). The little book of restorative discipline for schools: Teaching responsibility; creating caring climates. Intercourse, Pennsylvania: Good Books.