Restorative Practices

Social and Emotional Learning when things go wrong

When things go wrong there are four kinds of response required to fully address to the problematic situation at hand
  • Contain the situation to minimise any additional harm
  • Repair the harm done
  • Reduce the likelihood of the problem recurring
  • Restore all parties to full status and well-being and relationships to good working order
Each of these responses involves social and emotional learning. In addition, 
  • Social and emotional learning are central to sustained improvement
Achieving these outcomes is rarely simple but they are well worth attempting. While school staff may be 'responsible' for achieving these outcomes no one is actually 'in control' - achieving these outcomes requires cooperation from all parties (often including third parties). Restorative Practices are focused on enabling such cooperation.

Circles and a set of specific restorative questions are at the heart of Restorative processes:

Circles are a traditional way to build community and at the same time enable and allow all parties to
  • safely and respectfully share their thoughts, feelings and experiences 
  • gain insights into the thoughts, feelings and experiences of others involved
Ideally circles will be used widely in the life and work of the school. They are used used regularly - routinely and address positive and/or negative experiences. Circles can be preventative, proactive or responsive.  Examples include:
  • Daily “Check-in  / Check-out”
  • Preparation for a unit of study
  • Monitoring progress
  • Teaching social skills and emotional literacy
  • Team building
  • Issue exploration, problem solving

Restorative Questions
Although the detailed wording may change slightly, the following questions are central to hearing and being heard. They are also 'restorative' in the sense that they lead directly to 'putting things right'
  • What happened?
  • What were you thinking of at the time? **
  • Who has been affected by what you have done?
  • How do you think they have been effected?
  • What do you need to do to put things right?
  • How are you going to put things right?
** Important note: None of the questions ask "Why did you do that?". Those who have done some harm are not required to justify their actions - rather, the focus is on repairing the harm.  At the same time these questions often reveal surprising 'reasons' for unacceptable actions.

There is a corresponding set of questions for those who may have been effected by what happened
  • What happened?
  • What did you think at the time?
  • How have you been effected by what happened?
  • What do you need so that things are put right?

Restorative Inquiries (Level 1 RP interventions)
These are simply using the above restorative questions in 1:1 situations.
Note: From the responses, the helper/facilitator can judge whether the matter can and should be taken to the next level.

Restorative Meetings (Level 2 RP)
In restorative meetings the helper/facilitator brings the main parties together in order for each to
  • hear the other's account of the what has happened and what may be necessary to put things right
  • give their own account
Note: The meeting begins by establishing the ground rules and initial questions are addressed to person who has caused some harm.

Restorative Conferences (Level 3 RP)
These conferences are more formal and include third parties
  • other stakeholders who have been involved and or effected by events
  • (family) support  for each of the main parties

Other key references

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