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The most profound learning occurs when there is a healthy relationship between teacher and student. Restorative Practices assists teachers, students and parents to build, maintain and restore relationships. Restorative Practices enables students to self regulate behavior and contribute to the improvement of learning outcomes.
For teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators, restorative practices provides a proactive approach for building a school community based on cooperation, mutual understanding, and respect. Restorative practices provides processes for holding students accountable for their actions and behavior while at the same time building a nurturing school environment.
This is not a new concept or practice. It has been used in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Singapore, Canada, United States and many other countries. Implementation may be different from place-to-place but the expected results are all the same–safe and respectful communities.
Skills gained from restorative programs, such as good communications, conflict resolution and critical thinking, are valuable for students as they enter college and seek employment. It is not just a program but a way of life.
Restorative programs in schools are based on formal guidelines and incorporate trained individuals to deal with conflict and violations of school rules. The Youth Restoration Project began in Central Falls in 2008.
Circles bring people together to talk about issues and resolve conflict. Why is this important? Conflicts that start with two people quickly begin to affect others. Sometimes even if the two people solve their differences issues may linger for others that were not directly involved. Circles provide an opportunity for everyone who has been touched by a conflict or incident to discuss it in a safe, confidential environment. Then a collective solution can be discussed.
The process can ideally be used to build a sense of community, belonging and shared understanding. By simply practicing the use of circles for everything from community-building to holding people accountable for their actions, circles teach people to:
take turns, which emphasizes the democratic process;
take only your portion of the attention pie;
listen convincingly and patiently;
give words to your own emotional landscape within, and share it with others;
improve your own self-awareness and self-management
learn to express emotions without being hurtful or aggressive, even when those emotions are negative;
taking responsibility for yourself and your own actions;
become aware of how your actions affect other people;
become part of a cooperative team that has group norms and agreements; and
create protocols for restitution and repairing harm.
Mediation in schools typically resolves disputes between two students, while conferencing opens the process to other students, staff, and teachers. Both of these models are facilitated by a trained mediator and bring together affected parties to develop an appropriate response to the conflict. These programs teach students how to peacefully resolve conflict, hash out misunderstandings, and prevent further conflict.
We know that programs work best when there are internal and external supports in place. The District works closely with the Youth Restoration Project as well as Family Care Community Partnership(FCCP), a network of social services designed to prevent and assist families at risk of becoming involved with the child welfare and/or juvenile justice systems.