eNews - November 3, 2015

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"The teacher got me in trouble,"

is a phrase heard over and over in our school systems. Students have been feeling like victims of their own behaviors for centuries. But as we know, many educators are reacting and punishing students time and time again for their behavior without other options or tools to help students learn how to remedy situations.

We have a social responsibility to provide opportunities to teach students how to take responsibility for their own behaviors and to help them repair harm they have created. When students feel they are always punished when they mess up, and don't have an opportunity to make amends if they choose, they can sometimes feel like a victim themselves without other alternatives for them to right their wrong. Frequently students are not acutely aware of the impact their behaviors have on others around them, including their own families and the friends and families of those they have harmed.

One way to reach this goal is by using Restorative Practices. The following is taken from the International Institute of Restorative Practices trainer's materials: “The fundamental hypothesis of restorative practices is that human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.”

Using the range of restorative practices from informal restorative questions to more formal circles or conferences, gives students a way to help develop a sense of responsibility for their actions and empathy for the way their actions impact others. There has been concern for years about having students with conflicts meet face to face to repair harm that was done. However, students and others affected eventually see each other in their school or community. So, if we can foster healthier relationships and hear the students’ voices, we should take that opportunity. Restorative Practices gives us tools to empower our school community to take action and create more positive personal connections.

What is Restorative Practices?