Humans are hard-wired to connect. However, pandemic lockdowns and long-term remote learning damaged many students’ abilities to connect in positive ways. As districts returned to classroom learning, educators observed more classroom disruptions, behavioral problems, and children experiencing new or untreated mental health issues.
Why We Should Look for Alternatives to Punitive Discipline
While the situation may have worsened, schools have always dealt with troublesome emotional and behavioral situations. Traditionally, disciplinary action has focused on punishment, detention, or suspension.
There is ample evidence that punishment is less than an effective way to change student behavior, reduce repeat infractions, or combat poor attendance. Instead, students can become more disconnected or drop out. A growing number of schools are seeking alternatives, with many focusing on an approach called Restorative Practices, an approach that focuses on resolving conflict, repairing harm, and healing damaged relationships.
Why Should Schools Consider Restorative Practices?
Restorative Practices in schools can have profound effects, increasing school safety and the sense of student belonging. Schools with successful restorative practices programs have seen improved behavior, less bullying, and less violence. Beyond their school experience, students can apply these concepts for a lifetime.
Positive elements of restorative practices include:
- Taking Responsibility: Reflect on mistakes and potential consequences while raising the student’s self-awareness about how their actions negatively affected others
- Apply Conflict Resolution Techniques: Teach students to use communication and use problem- solving techniques—including talking about their feelings, brainstorming solutions, using calming exercises, and apologizing.
- Build Emotional Skills and Empathy: Cultivate social-emotional skills, including empathy, to help students feel heard and value other people’s emotions.
- Embrace Forgiveness: Discuss the positive results of forgiveness, along with the negative impact of holding onto anger and holding a grudge.
- Learn the Art of Conversation: Learn the basics of effective communication, such as listening without interrupting, taking turns, and respecting other people’s opinions.
At school and beyond, applying restorative practices builds more supportive, respectful, and inclusive communities. By teaching restorative practices, schools can become collaborative places where values a co-created and there is greater accountability for upholding shared ideals.
7 Ways to Implementing Restorative Practices in Schools
The work of implementing restorative practices is a learning experience that may require a significant shift in the attitude and behaviors of teachers, administrators, school staff, and superintendents—not to mention the students themselves.
Here are Seven Key Ways for Schools to Implement Restorative Practices.
- Involve students in establishing classroom norms by co-creating a code of acceptable behavior and problem-solving methods.
- Use calming techniques to help students overcome the tension and anxiety surrounding disputes and harmful behaviors.
- Reinforce the need to follow mutually agreed-upon norms about respecting other students, teachers, and school property.
- Create a restorative dialogue between affected parties, encouraging them to share feelings without guilt or judgment.
- When problems occur, lead students into a restorative inquiry process to learn more about the conflict, discuss ways to repair the damage, and restore positive relationships.
- Seek workable resolutions that promote healing and recovery from the conflict
- Hold regular meetings to check in with students, discuss problems as they arise, or prevent potential problems
Professional Development to Teach, Train, and Prepare Educators and Staff
STOPit recognizes the need for ongoing training to reinforce the concepts of restorative practices and offers professional development engagements to train district administrators, school personnel, educators, and staff on how to identify gaps in emergency response protocols and/or to educate their classroom teachers, counselors, administrators, or support staff on the power of connections in a school setting. Download the brochure below for the details of these offerings.
Continuously Improve Restorative Practices
Introducing a culture of restorative practice requires a shift in practices and perspectives on disciplinary measures. Switching gears doesn’t happen instantaneously. Instead, it is an evolution. Not only will adapting to this new approach require planning, commitment at all levels, and professional development, but also ongoing reflection and refinement. While it may not be easy, the rewards can include a safer school environment, better social-emotional skills, and a greater capacity to be empathetic and treat others with respect.
Sign-up for more information on our Professional Development Engagements!