Restorative practices can help educators identify and meet individual needs in a variety of ways. They help educators see the whole student and not just focus on the behavior.
The Restorative Quadrant of The Social Discipline Window helps meet the individual needs of students by helping educators set clear boundaries and provide discipline that is educative in addition to strengthening relationships and trust by offering a high level of support, encouragement and nurturing. In comparison, other forms of discipline may be punitive, permissive and/or neglectful and do not take into account the individual needs and circumstances of students. Zero Tolerance is a prime example of a one size, fits all, dishonoring of differences, policy.
Additionally, the words we use have great power to inspire and/or discourage. Language and labels matter and contribute to the belief system of the student and their families as well as the expectations and mindset of the educators and support personnel who work with them. RP use language that is healing, humane, loving and supportive.
Affective statements help communicate people’s feelings without shaming and blaming. For example, when a teacher says, “I feel frustrated when people are socializing when I am trying to teach. It’s hard for me to focus and I can’t find my thoughts. It makes me feel like the time I spent preparing was for naught.” it can help students personalize what happened, have empathy for the teacher and begin to take personal responsibility for their behavior. On the contrary, if a teacher reprimands the students by saying something such as, “How many time have I told you to stop talking? You are so disrespectful and are wasting my time!” it can cause students to go into a shame spiral and react negatively by withdrawing, avoiding, attacking themselves or attacking others.
Affective questions help students reflect on how their behavior has affected others and/or themselves. It helps them to recognize the teachable moment and be able to apply the learning to future situations instead of just feeling like they are being interrogated. Examples of affective questions include: What happened? What were you thinking at the time? What virtue was missing when you…? If you called on that virtue in the future, what might be the outcome? How can you make amends?
Like affective statements and questions, impromptu conferences can provide scaffolding and just in time support for students instead of having them wait in the office for a more formal meeting, losing instructional time and having to do the walk of shame back into the classroom. This also gives educators the opportunity to listen with compassion to find out what is underneath the behavior being discussed and provide helpful guidance.
Circles help to connect students and staff, build trust and provide a safe space for all voices to be heard. They can create an opportunity to make students who are often hidden, more visible.
Finally, “Restorative Conferences are formal responses to wrongdoing where all those involved in an incident come together with a trained facilitator to explore what happened, who was affected, and what needs to be done to make things right. A formal conference is not a routine classroom process run by the teacher, like circles, but is typically run by someone else, often under the jurisdiction of the school administration” (pp 33-34: The Restorative Practices Handbook). Instead of just coming from a Zero Tolerance perspective, the victim(s), the offender(s) and those in the community and community of care have the opportunity to work together to make things whole, restore the relationships and help the person(s) who made the mistake understand just that, that they have made a mistake not that they are a mistake.
Finally, RP remind me of Red and Kathy Grammer’s song, “See Me Beautiful”
See me beautiful
Look for the best in me
Its what I really am
And all I want to be
It may take some time
It may be hard to find
But see me beautiful
See me beautiful
Each and every day
Could you take a chance
Could you find a way
To see me shining through
In everything I do
And see me beautiful