What is Restorative Practice?
Restorative Practice is a values-based philosophy; it aims to consciously build relationships, respond to harm/conflict in a way that honours relationships, and CONNECT us to our best selves and to one another. The values of this philosophy promote relational ways of being, it informs how we think, engage, speak, listen, and approach situations, all day, every day. There are a set of explicit observable practices that breathe life into the restorative values so that we are living values-in-action; the explicit language also facilitates and scaffolds this restorative way of being.
The intention is to develop a culture of care and respect that allows people to flourish and connect in community. Relational thinking and practices encourage high expectations to be our own best self and offer the support and care we need to reach this potential. Restorative Practice uses the restorative values as a compass; when dealing with conflict, it moves us away from blame and attack, and instead ignites a path towards connection, solutions and empathy. A restorative approach cultivates active responsibility and accountability over conformity and compliance. It also develops our capacity to regulate, recognise and communicate emotions. Emotional intelligence is the most overall success factor in careers. Ultimately it is about connection - to the self and to others.
Restorative Practice in Schools
- Relational Classrooms
Restorative practice has its roots in indigenous communities, even in Ireland in Brehon Law when people would work in community. Within our schools, RP is about creating relational learning communities. Growing a restorative school is about embracing and living the restorative philosophy; which is based on a shared awareness that we are all profoundly relational, interconnected and inherently good. Ultimately, it is about creating relational learning communities and cultivating whole-school preferred practices that honour this understanding.
The proactive element of restorative practice is absolutely essential to build an environment that is conducive to meaningful teaching and learning. Positive psychology informs us that, due to the ‘stick-ability’ of the negative we need a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative interactions for a flourishing relationship. RP allows us to consciously invest in building relationships; knowing that feeling good is a key to unlock learning; understanding that learning is state sensitive, and we should, therefore, be sensitive to our inner state of being for effective teaching and learning to take place. This emotional climate also limits the potential for conflict and facilitates its successful resolution if it does occur, using the living of values as a compass. The restorative approach helps us to see in our young students in challenge what they may not yet see in themselves. It allows us to offer them a door way into their best selves, a lens from which to see who they really are, to realise their potential.
Restorative Practice is the way to join the educational dots, to scaffold the acquisition of key skills and to develop methodologies that can be used for teaching, learning and formative assessment. It builds life skills, facilitates oral language development and emotional literacy, develops communication skills such as active listening and authentic sharing, and ignites many of the indicators of the the Junior Cycle Wellbeing Guidelines (2017) and the SPHE strands. Such engagement allows us to tap into students’ personal scripts, it changes the energy in the room, breathes the connection that fosters an enthusiastic, safe, and collaborative work space. In summary – IT FEELS GOOD!
If I had had the chance to do RP in first year I can guarantee you I wouldn’t have got in so much trouble, it would have had a bigger effect on my life than it has already. It works so well and I have helped kids with their problems and it makes me feel good when I help them.”
- 5th Year Student
Restorative Practice works really well, it works because there is a set of questions that are asked which are fair and consistent. These questions ask the person how they feel, what do they think needs to happen next. These questions are asking a person to think about how they and others feel about a situation. People have a chance to admit their wrongdoing or a hurt party gets to explain how to make it better again. It is really emotional when restorative practice is being used because it can be hard for people to sit in the same room as the person they have hurt or been hurt by, then listening to what they have to say about how they feel about you. This is why it works really well though. I think it could work for life.
- 5th Year Student
RP is a great way of communicating, a great way of dealing with conflict.
- 2nd Year Student
You can’t suspend a student forever, it doesn’t really get to the root of a problem.
- 3rd Year Student
It’s good to understand why students behave that way, it’s good to talk it out, when using RP the students in the class got to relate to each other and say how they were feeling...
- 6th Year Student
RP has taught me how to be a person in the world, how to live my life.
- 5th Year Student