20 July, 2016

PeopleNotes: an online tool with real-time SEL

Real-time SEL

If you work with students, clients, staff.... you know that are in the business of real-time social and emotional learning for you and the people who you support.

The challenges of SEL

For each person you work with you need to
  • Know what matters
  • Do what works
  • Be accountable
If you work in an organisation, your colleagues and other stakeholders will also be working with these same people so you also need to
  • Know what is happening
  • Work with others to improve what is happening
  • Make it easier for the next person to do well

There is an app for that!!

With more than 50 years experience as a teacher, principal and superintendent and consultant I am well aware of just how challenging the above requirements are in real time.

So I have developed PeopleNotes, an app that enables individual users and teams to meet the six challenges above.

PeopleNotes main page

To see what is  possible you can create a free account to share with a colleague. Customise it to meet your needs and use your organisation's everyday terminology and language.

If you like what you experience with PeopleNotes, please share it with friends and colleagues.

And I will be delighted to get your feedback and enquiries. Hope to here from you soon.

PS. PeopleNotes is not just for schools - it is everyone is involved in supporting and developing others.

10 October, 2013

Demonstrating a Restorative Circle

Recently I had a request for a video (~10 minutes) of students participating in a restorative circle. Brief snippets are readily available within other videos but I am not aware of any that exist, except in snippets (e.g., in the West Philadelphia video on SaferSanerSchools). If you can help, please let me know. My response to the request was as follows.
Making such a video would have some major complications. It would not be easy...
  • There is the issue of confidentiality in real circles for serious incidents. 
  •  And there are the challenges of acting and filming simulated circles given the age of the participants and the physical layout of circles (ideal for participants but difficult to record on video)
However, it is common practice to use role plays to demonstrate Restorative circles in workshops. This needs some setting up before hand so that the "players" have some idea of their context:
  • what happened,
  • what their character might think
  • who else might have been affected
  • and what might be done to repair the harm
Interestingly, this "setting up" is very important and needs to happen in real-life situations. To keep everyone safe and minimise further harm it is important to get the participants' agreement to participate before taking things to the next level. There are three main levels above making affective statements
  1. Restorative Questions individually to victim* and offender* - may be sufficient for essential learning and to reduce the likelihood of minor incidents recurring
  2. Restorative Meeting jointly with victim and offender - may be sufficient to resolve a less serious issue or incident
  3. Restorative Conference (a larger circle to resolve a major issue or incident): victim, offender, other stakeholders (others effected and supporters)
Participants need to know what their experience is likely to be if they engage in the next level:
  • what the rules will be;
  • who will be involved;
  • what questions will be asked;
  • and that they will be safe, respected and supported
1. Facilitators need to have a good idea of how things will go at the next level before initiating it. A facilitator should not take a matter to a higher level unless he/she is reasonably confident about the step being successful for all concerned.  Unfortunately it is possible for more problematic content to be revealed at the next level. Facilitators need to be able to handle such situations and sometimes a meeting or conference has to be cancelled or postponed.
2*. In many situations the key players are both "victims" and "offenders" - people don't usually do the "wrong thing" for no reason!! Thus it is important not to assign victim and offender roles too strongly. Restorative practices may be well structured but they are also open.

06 October, 2013

Introducing Restorative Practices to a group

Recently I received a request for suggestions regarding possible arrangements for a proposed workshop on Restorative Practices. The workshop would introduce restorative practices to a group of representative students from several schools. In response I made the following recommendations:


Use a circle and work through the restorative questions to set the scene - something along the lines of:
- What sort of things happen at your school?
- What do you think when these things happen?
- Who is affected when they happen?
- What is needed to repair the harm done?
- Who might be able/prepared to see this happen ?

Also get lots of the restorative question cards to give out to everyone. They are available from IIRP 

Perhaps the best resource for comprehensive implementation of Restorative Practices in schools is at SaferSanerSchools. And the key reference for school staff is Whole School Change - Overview

There are lots of other great school resources available from the web
 - Villanova College is a great example of a good highly successful school using Restorative Practices really well
 - West Philadephia is a great example of a highly challenged school using Restorative Practices really well. Information available from SaferSanerSchools 

If you are working with staff, they need to understand the Social Discipline Window - it will help them make better sense of what is happening. 
[Note: I often change the term 'Control' to 'Challenge' to make the model more relational, and more consistent with the idea of 'working WITH' rather than 'working ON' students. The idea of  'controlling' is also fundamentally misleading and unrealistic except perhaps in the short-term]


In schools, Restorative Practices are not just about fixing problems that have occurred. As elsewhere, Restorative Practices are about building community within, and beyond, the school. Restorative Practices are also educational and provide an powerful basis for social and emotional learning by all members of the school community - staff, students, their families and other stakeholders.

08 January, 2013

Emotions - hardwired or taught?

Nicola Preston's presentation to the IIRP UK & Ireland 2012 Conference includes the following slide:

This slide could be a great starting point for reviewing current arrangements for Social and Emotional Learning in any school.

In particular it raises the questions of 
  • what (emotions) will be taught, and 
  • what pedagogies will be used.
Obviously conventional notions of curriculum as delivered content are unlikely to be all that successful. Rather it is necessary to situate much of the learning within the everyday lived (emotional) experience of the students and other members of the school community.  Fortunately there is a rich set of everyday possibilities available - see Pedagogies for SEL

21 September, 2012

Restorative Schools - some major trends

My online newspaper, Restorative Schools, is out today and every Friday.

As well as useful resources there are several reports of big reductions in suspensions in a number of US schools and school systems using Restorative Practices. The reports are based on data from previous school  years. The numbers of students suspended and/or excluded has been mind-boggling (at least to me) and the reductions achieved have been very impressive.

Other trends include
  • increasing pressure to reduce suspensions and exclusions
  • the introduction of laws in some parts of the world to mandate the use of restorative and similar practices in schools
  • endorsement of Restorative Practices by a wide range of authorities
  • initiatives by cities around the world to become Restorative Cities
  • schools playing a leading role in the spread of restorative practices within communities
All the best,

26 July, 2012

Demonstrating order

When harm is done it is relatively easy to identify the primary relationships that have been damaged and need to be restored. In serious matters, restorative practices address close secondary relationships by including supporters of both the offenders and victims.

Well-meaning authorities may attempt to "keep the door open" for those who have caused some harm by implementing minimal consequences. For example, a court may apply a suspended sentence for a serious offense. In terms of the social discipline window, such approaches can be perceived as high support - low challenge. However, this can undermine the confidence of bystanders and their relationships with those involved and the system (justice system, school...). A bystander is anyone who knows that harm was done, before, during or after the fact. 

High challenge - high support approaches include the completion of substantial well-managed challenges by those who have caused harm. As part of the restoration of relationships, such challenges are likely to be known to those directly involved in any restorative processes. Communicating the successful completion of real challenges can be important for wider bystanders who need to know that justice has been done, and that there is order including social discipline.

18 July, 2012

Push-outs and zero tolerance in Australia

Push-outs and Zero Tolerance fail to deliver in the US
In the US zero tolerance is being abandoned as a core strategy to improve school safety and student achievement (IIRP). This shift is closely associated with widespread concern about the long term implications of push-outs.
  • Zero tolerance is usually implemented by suspensions and expulsions for unacceptable behaviour and can easily result in permanent push-outs
  • Push-outs disrupt a students' education and place them in situations where they are more likely to do dangerous and unacceptable things. This frequently moves students to the periphery of society permanently. For many the effect is a "school-to-prison" pipeline
Is Australia different?
Zero tolerance has not be explicitly adopted in Australian schools and we don't use or have a term that is equivalent to push-out. But does this mean that the phenomena do not to be found in Australia? Certainly not. 
Both zero tolerance and push-outs are alive and well down-under, but politely masked by a number of factors including failure of the student to meet the "required standards" of behaviour and/or academic progress. Families, communities and even school systems (unconsciously) collude with schools to maintain the masking of intolerance and exclusion.

Understanding push-outs
Particular students are excluded (pushed out) from particular schools for a wide range of reasons
  • Despite receiving government funding, non-government schools select their students from those who apply and in the process usually exclude the the least promising. That is, many students are pushed "out" from non-government schools before they are "in"!!  In contrast many of the same non-government schools offer scholarships to the most promising students in order to ensure that they get "in".
  • Should difficulties arise after being enrolled, students at non-government schools can be pushed out by having their enrolment terminated without much difficulty
  • Government schools may suspend students for short periods for less serious behavioural issues or exclude students permanently for serious matters. The school system then attempts to find an alternative school placement for the excluded student.
  • Students with high levels of special needs are less likely to be enrolled in non-government schools and may not be "main-streamed" in government schools if the schools cannot make provision that meets their needs.
  • Some students exclude themselves by refusing to attend school often as a result of social, emotional or material issues that make it difficult to meet the school's requirements
  • The latter students may also behave in unacceptable ways that result in their being excluded by the school
  • Or they may be pushed-out by their fellow students through bullying and harassment
  • Also families sometimes fail to enrol their children in school, fail to support attendance or even discourage attendance by their children for personal reasons
  • And families (and their children) can be pushed out from communities
In Australia, non-government schools are widely believed to provide better quality education. And this belief is supported by school performance data available from the MySchool website. A high proportion of non-government schools may well be safer and have better student outcomes (learning, attendance, parent satisfaction...) precisely because of their zero tolerance and the use of push-outs to other schools, particularly to government schools.
To a lesser extent some government schools have similar practices. The net result is that there is a movement of the most needy students away from the provision and social capital that could best meet their needs.

At the same time, some of the most courageous and genuinely high performing schools are to be found at the periphery although this is far from obvious from the available school performance data.

Schools that use zero tolerance have no real need to develop more inclusive strategies such as school-wide positive behaviour support and restorative practices.