How do we share our perspective as Restorative Practitioners with educators, so that they gain a clearer understanding of how Restorative Practices (RP) have the power to complement their pedagogy and promote emotional literacy within their communities?
By Deb Black, Manager Restorative Services, Centre for Restorative Justice
Many of us Restorative Practitioners “just get it”, the realisation that Restorative principles and how we use language to engage with our, and other communities, is necessarily different. Some of us have been practitioners long before we find the reality of the theories and principles, while others of us “find” our practice while we are navigating the search for personal and professional development. By their very nature, our Restorative practices become the way we interact with others daily, and they make a fundamental change to our, and others’ relationships when we demonstrate them by our own modelling.
People frequently use the terms Restorative Justice and Restorative Practice as a means of explaining the same processes and principles. To be clear, Restorative Justice is a process used to address harm perpetrated against an individual, or within a community and Restorative practice/s are those processes we engage in, on a daily basis, to create and nurture our communities, and mitigate against incidences of harm.
The Centre for Restorative Justice (CRJ) provides multifaceted service delivery within the Restorative Justice (RJ) space. We work in facilitating Restorative Justice conferences to address harm within communities, and we provide training workshops for schools, Government departments and other organisations on how the use of Restorative processes provide an alternative dispute resolution mechanism and a supportive framework for behaviour development.
Our experience in working with schools has shown that the RJ/RP training delivered more generally with schools, relies on the training for educators to utilise RJ principles in a responsive manner to address a student behavioural issues, conflict or harm within the school community.
At CRJ we use a different construct which creates the link between initial engagement and development of emotional literacy and problem-solving skills and how these can be used to address harm within the school community when it occurs. We believe that it is imperative for educators and school communities to develop their understanding of the effectiveness of implementing strategies and the use of RJ/RP to embed a foundational framework that uses RP proactively to recognise, then bring together and nurture a school community. Once this change has been made it is far more effective for the school community to utilise RJ/RP to address harm, behavioural issues or conflict within their community.
Utilising Restorative Practice to guide discussions constructively, in an inclusive manner that affords all parties to be heard, and share their perspective, opens a safe space for community members to have conversations on how to problem solve collaboratively or address harm in a manner that looks at a forward focus on learning, accepting accountability and a positive healing approach.
What are the challenges?
- Many schools engage in RJ/RP training so they can utilise the skills to address student behaviour or conflict.
- There is limited acknowledgement that RJ/RP processes and principles apply to all school community members including the adults.
- There is patchy take up and implementation of practice across campuses or within the school community.
- The students adopt the new RP language and processes more readily than the adults in the community.
- Parents and broader community members are not included in the training workshops or information sharing and understanding, and therefore do not know that schools have implemented different practices to address harm, behavioural and conflict situations and this can lead to an escalation in parent teacher conflict.
- RJ/RP is aligned to relational pedagogy but not widely practiced.
- The fluidity of any school community (staff movements, student graduations and movements, changes in service providers) means that there are people moving in and out of the community constantly, and information and learning needs to be refreshed through ongoing engagement and program of workshops.
Clearly there is no “quick fix” or simple solution to these challenges. For those school communities seeking, and willing, to make the change from a past focussed punishment model of behaviour management, to a future focussed model of emotional literacy and developing problem solving skills, there is an option.
CRJ looks forward to working with those school communities to develop their community members’ skills and share the principles and processes of Restorative practice that will support and nurture their initiative.
A brief introduction to our work can be found HERE and if you would like to arrange a consult please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss your community requirements and contextualise our workshops for you.
Deb Black joined The Centre for Restorative Justice in early 2017 as a Restorative Justice Conference Facilitator and Trainer. Deb is a nationally accredited mediator committed to community building and alternative dispute resolution. Deb utilises blended processes in order to accommodate and engage in a restorative inclusive process, that allows all parties to be heard, and then feel safe to discuss their needs.
Deb has studied Restorative Justice conferencing through both Mediators Beyond Borders International (utilising IIRP – International Institute of Restorative Practice training) and VARJ (Victorian Association of Restorative Justice – now AARJ) and uses Restorative Practice/Justice to facilitate and provide conferencing as a vehicle for addressing emotional impacts of conflict in group, industrial and other settings. Traditional legal and statutory processes do not accommodate dealing with the community or emotional impacts of conflict. Deb has a proven track record of facilitating positive outcomes for communities, schools, business and individuals through a relational approach to conflict and behaviour development.