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.