What is Restorative Practices in Schools?
Restorative Practices is one of the most widely used school climate initiatives in the world because it not only improves school culture and equity, but because it offers a more effective way of addressing discipline problems. So what is Restorative Practices exactly?
Imagine a community sitting around a fire, or a tree, to talk about what happened, who was impacted, and how to make it right? Using circles for meeting and discussing issues has evolved in nearly every culture. Restorative Practices in schools provides an alternative framework for thinking about discipline problems, which are much more effective than the traditional discipline practices we use today.
In schools there are both the proactive and responsive components to restorative practices that work in tandem to create the equitable and inclusive school culture that we want.
In Classroom Circles (also called community circles, proactive circles or socratic circles) everyone sits where they can see each other and take turns speaking - everyone has an opportunity to contribute and power is shared. Circles promote inclusion validating the experiences and needs of everyone within the community. We listen deeply, and don’t interrupt, cultivating trust and promoting fairness.
Once schools have proactively created community, when issues arise, they can respond by using structured restorative conversations to help solve problems and repair harm, like Restorative Chats, Mediations, Circles, and Conferences. These restorative responses bring together the student who caused the harm with the individual harmed as well as others who were impacted. The student who caused harm has an opportunity to understand the impact of their actions, to be heard and understood themselves, to be held accountable, to repair the harm, and finally to be welcomed back (restored) to the community. This approach is more impactful than the use of traditional, exclusionary discipline for the person who did the harm, and is validating, empowering and healing for those who have been harmed.