RESTORATIVE PRACTICES – Approach
Restorative Practices is an alternative to using solely punishment to manage misbehavior. Punishment-based approaches are the tradition most of us are familiar with, because they are the basis of our criminal justice system, guided by the idea that punishment, if fair and proportionate, is the best response to crime. In practice this means identifying, prosecuting, and punishing the offender. Often this is done at great cost to society, with little healing for victims and communities and outright harmful effect on offenders and their families.
School discipline has for the most part taken its cue from the criminal justice system. The focus is on punishing wrongdoers with the aim of enforcing behaviors that are safe and non-disruptive. When punishment does not work, misbehaving students may be excluded through suspension or expulsion, with possibly serious long-term harmful consequences to them and society. There is little or no opportunity for social and emotional learning.
Punitive approaches focus solely on two main objectives:
- Teach right and wrong
- Incentivize right behavior
Missing is the skill development component - the most dependable mechanism for ensuring students do the right thing without staff assistance is helping them internalize how their behaviors have affected others.
Restorative practices aims first to build classroom communities that are supported by clear agreements, authentic communication, and specific tools to bring issues and conflicts forward in a helpful way. They provide specific pathways to repair harms by bringing together those who are affected by misbehavior in a dialogue to address concerns, achieve understanding, and come to agreement about setting things right. In addition to serving the cause of fairness and justice, restorative approaches make safer schools and contribute to social and emotional learning.
RESTORATIVE PRACTICES – Redefining What We Believe
Three of the most important shifts to truly embrace the Restorative Practices approach are as follows:
Efforts to suppress misbehavior based on the view that misbehavior is evidence of failing students or classrooms.
Recognizing and using the inherent value of misbehavior as an opportunity for social and emotional learning.
Authority-driven disciplinary actions that focus only on the identified misbehaving students.
Restorative processes that bring together everyone who is most immediately affected by the incident.
Punishment and exclusion is used to control misbehavior and motivate positive behavior changes.
Dialogue leading to understanding and action to set things right and repair and restore relationships.
- The first shift acknowledges that troublesome behavior is normal, and when students behave in troublesome ways they create opportunities to learn important social and emotional skills. What is important is not so much that they got into trouble in the first place, but what they learn along the way. Making things right is a powerful learning experience.
- The second shift is a departure from the retributive model in which an authority, after taking testimony from the aggrieved party, decides guilt and assigns punishment. In restorative practices the authority figure acts more as a convener and facilitator. The initial investigation is concerned with identifying who was significantly affected by the incident. The facilitator invites them into a circle dialogue or conference and, if they accept the invitation, helps prepare them. During the intervention the problem and its impacts are explored and the group comes up with ideas on how to make things right. Usually this means the students who were the source of the trouble take specific actions that address the consequences of their choices. Consider the difference in outcomes between the authoritarian/punitive approach and the restorative approach: the first breeds resentment, alienation and shame and/or possibly an equally troublesome habit of fearing and submitting to authority; the second builds empathy, responsibility and helps restore relationships and in turn community.
- The third shift moves the locus of responsibility for well-being of the community from the shoulders of the experts to the community itself. While counseling and similar strategies have their place and are often helpful by themselves, they are immeasurably strengthened when complemented by restorative practices that challenge those who are in the Restorative Processes to share information with each other and to come to agreements as a group.
RESTORATIVE PRACTICES – Authentic Accountability
Restorative Practices starts with the premise that students who misbehave are not aware of the impact of their behavior. Even those who behave in ways that appear intentionally harmful rarely understand the true nature and scope of the hurt they are causing. Part of our job as educators is to help them to learn the consequences of their behavior.
Typical school discipline practices respond to wrongdoing by focusing on the rules that were broken and seek to assert the school’s authority by administering punishment to those who broke the rules. While schools do have legitimate authority, it is important to remind ourselves that the underlying rationale for school rules is to protect people from harm and ensure a safe and functional learning environment. Rather than a bureaucratic perspective that simply assigns punishments for violations of the code of conduct, our focus should be on the real needs of human beings. We must repair the harm done to interpersonal relationships and restore a feeling of security and peace in the school community, which then makes it possible for teachers to teach and students to learn.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES – Build Community
Restorative Practices moves beyond the single axis of a Punitive-Permissive Continuum – by examining the interplay between two axes, one for control or limit-setting and another for support or nurture, additional possibilities are discovered. The “Social Discipline Window” highlights the four resulting combinations (see below). The “restorative” response to wrongdoing combines both high control and high support. This is the critical choice that is missing on the Punitive-Permissive Continuum. This is when those in authority exercise their control, refusing to accept inappropriate behavior, but do so in a caring and supportive way. The Social Discipline Window suggests that educators can take the best of both axes and achieve high levels of nurturing and support with high levels of expectation and accountability. The idea is to support students and engage them in finding ways to curb their own negative behavior.
By engaging students into their own system of processing, we can hold them accountable in an active way. It is then when we are doing things WITH them, in what is known as a FAIR PROCESS (see below).
GUIDING PRINCIPLES – Take Ownership
The Psychology of Affect, based on the work of psychologist Silvan Tompkins, helps us better understand why human beings act and respond in certain ways and why Restorative Practices work so well. According to Tompkins, human beings have three main categories of “affect:” Positive, Neutral, and Negative. The gateway for any time an individual’s sense of positive affect is interrupted is identified as “shame.” There are four ways in which we react to shame (see Compass of Shame below):
Attack Others: when people blame others for what they’ve done, turning the tables, lashing out verbally or physically.
Attack Self: when people put themselves down and say things like, “I’m so stupid” or “Why can’t I do anything right?”
Avoidance: when people deny, ignore or try to change the subject with humor or other distractions (even drugs/alcohol)
Withdrawal: when people pull away or feel they want to run and hide – simply refusing to interact with anyone.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES – Acknowledge Impact
The Goals of Restorative Practices that respond to wrongdoing are as follows:
- Foster an understanding of the impact of the behavior
- Seek to repair the harm that was done to people and relationships
- Attend to the needs of victims and others in the community
- Avoid imposing on students intentional pain, embarrassment and discomfort
- Actively involve others as much as possible
When reviewing the goals above, the terms “impact, harm, victims and community” all speak to the outcomes of wrongdoing that are ”Natural.”
GUIDING PRINCIPLES – Repair Harm
Schools and societies have come to the conclusion that if those who misbehave or commit crimes are made to suffer with a punishment, they will be less likely to repeat the harmful behavior. If this were true, then the job of the school disciplinarian would be easy. With each infraction, he or she would impose a certain amount of discomfort. If that punishment failed to change a student’s behavior, then the disciplinarian would simply increase the level of suffering until the inappropriate behavior stopped. However, punishments do not create empathy in students and encourage them to internalize a commitment to behave properly, so soon the inappropriate behavior repeats itself again.
It is the objective of any consequence for the “offender” to truly understand the Natural outcomes of their behavior and therefor repair the harm committed.
The consequence is directly connected to the student’s behavior and its function. The function of the same behavior may be different for each student or even for the same student at different times. Therefore, it is crucial that staff take this into consideration and do not use one consequence for all inappropriate behavior. An example of a consequence that is not related would be having a student go to time out for calling another student a name. A related consequence may be to have the student spend some of their free time (recess or after school) discussing the natural consequences of the action with the teacher (e.g. hurting that person’s feeling, possibly getting called a name back) and writing the offended student an apology.
Consequences need to be given with empathy in a respectful voice tone. If not, the student will focus more on the feelings of the adult and perhaps their own feelings of anger resulting from being talked to disrespectfully and not reflecting on their choices. The student that is not treated respectfully often becomes aggressive, passive, resentful, and/or uncooperative and may try to get revenge against the teacher.
Reasonable refers to not providing consequences for a student’s inappropriate behavior that is too severe. It is not reasonable to require that a student lose all their recesses for the week for being silly in class or to lose the next month’s field trip for getting in an argument at lunch. A more reasonable consequence may be to eat lunch in a staff member’s office/classroom to practice appropriate behavior.
Restorative Practices utilizes a continuum of processes that range from informal to formal implementation, allowing for flexibility and responsiveness to individual students, behaviors and incidents.
When to Use
Teacher / Dean
- "When Challenging Behavior" ONLY
Impromptu Restorative Conference – Teacher (IRCFT)
Impromptu Restorative Conference –Dean (IRCFD)
- Push-in Support
- Dean Swap
- Processing Student
Dean / APSC
"offender" and "victim"
- "When Challenging Behavior"
- "To Help Those Affected"
Impromptu Restorative Conference (IRCF)
- Curbside Service
- Level II Response
Dean / APSC
All those impacted: "offender," "victim," plus others (internal students and/or staff)
- "When Challenging Behavior"
- "To Help Those Affected" (when applicable)
Restorative Circle (RCR)
- Class Reset
- Level II Response
Dean / APSC
All those impacted: "offender," "victim," plus support team (i.e. parents, guardians, social workers/ case managers if applicable)
Restorative Conference Agreement
Restorative Conference (RCF)
- Level II Response (serious incident)
Collaborative Problem Solving Meeting
Dean / APSC
Immediate Stakeholders (i.e. parents, guardians, social worker, case manager)
Formal Agenda and Introduction
Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS)
- Students with Multiple Level II Violations (El.>4/sem, Sec.>6/sem.)
Family Group Decision Making Conference
Comprehensive Stakeholders (i.e. parents, guardians, siblings, extended family, religious affiliations, mentors, Principal, APSS, API, case manager, social worker)
Formal Agenda and Introduction
Family Group Decision Making (FGDM)
- Students with Multiple Level II Violations (El.>8/sem, Sec.>12/sem.)
Affective Statements are the most informal type of response on the “Restorative Practices Continuum.” The term “Affective Statements” is just another way of expressing your feelings regarding how a specific behavior has impacted you. Understanding and using such statements can foster an immediate change in the dynamic between staff and student. When you tell a student how you feel, you are humanizing yourself to students, who often perceive staff as distinct from themselves. It is this open and honest line of communication that allow students to become more, not less, empathetic. As a result, Affective Statements help build relationships based on a student’s new image of the staff member who cares and has feelings, rather than a distant authority figure.
- Expression of how a specific behavior has impacted you!
- Affective Statements can be both Positive and Negative
Talking during class is inappropriate.
I am frustrated that you aren't listening to me; it makes it hard for the rest of the class to focus.
Stop putting down Chris.
It makes me uncomfortable when I hear you insulting Chris; I don’t want to think of you as a bully.
I am excited that you worked hard to get the right answer; it shows everyone there is a third way.
That was completely disrespectful.
I feel sad when you do something like that within our positive classroom; it turns it into a negative place.
Sit down and be quiet.
I get angry when you talk and entertain when others are speaking; it makes it hard for others to want to listen to you when you share.
Great job helping.
I am so appreciative for your help collecting all the materials; it helps us get to the next activity faster.
Accepting that conflict is an integral part of life is crucial to adopting Restorative Practices. There will always be misunderstandings, competing needs and interests, and differences of opinion. In a school the students will not always behave as we would like. Dealing with conflict is part of an educator’s job, whether we are comfortable with it or not. Restorative Practices helps to revise our thinking so that we see conflict in a school setting as an opportunity to foster learning and build better relationships.
Affective Questions provides a very clear and concise framework that serves as the tool to help foster participants ownership, acknowledgement of impact and repairing of harm.
*Notice that “Why did you do that?” is absent from the questions above. That question is really not helpful or relevant. Students usually do not understand why they did something wrong. In all likelihood they were simply being thoughtless or impetuous, without any reason. And if they have to dig for a reason it often ends up being rationalization or justification.
Small negative incidents have the potential to accumulate and have an overall impact in both the classroom and school. The purpose of Impromptu Conferences is to address a problem to keep it from escalating and to resolve the problem quickly, but in a way that gets students actively engaged in expressing their feelings and thinking about the impact of their behavior and about how to resolve the conflict.
Common locations where conflict is present and an Impromptu Conference would be applicable:
- Field Trips
- Classroom Transitions
- Community Meetings
CIRCLES – Rationale
The basic premise of Restorative Practices is that the increasingly inappropriate behavior in schools is a direct consequence of the overall loss of connectedness in the school community. By fostering inclusion, responsibility, support and cooperation, Circles restore these qualities to the community and classroom and facilitate the development of individual character.
Without the need for discussion, the very structure of circles fosters the following values:
Literally everyone in the circle has equal seating
Safety & Trust
You can see and hear everyone in a circle, so nothing is hidden
Everyone has a chance to play a role in the outcome of the circle
The circle reminds the leader to facilitate rather than lecture
Collectively, the participants feel the circle is theirs
These are built as everyone listens to everyone else’s responses
CIRCLES – Purposes
Respond to Harm
Community Building Circles are about giving students opportunity to get to know each other and establish positive connections, including agreements about how they ought to treat each other. Some circles focus exclusively on this task by building and deepening connections among students. Connection can be invited in several dimensions besides the interpersonal. There is connecting to physical sensation - tuning in to what our bodies are feeling. The same goes for emotions, and for what thoughts or concerns might be present. The aim here is to support students in whatever process they are feeling; to give permission to “come as you are.” This in turn can support the authenticity of the dialogue when the circle moves into taking care of business (content) such as discussing conflicts or other class issues.
Responsive Circles use specific high-quality questions to explore challenging circumstances and move toward making things right. Choosing questions that are “real” for the students is essential to eliciting content that matters. When the content matters, the circle will be energized and focused. The Restorative Questions articulate the real, actual questions that exist when there is conflict or when someone has harmed someone else. Students readily become engaged with these questions because the content of the circle is truly relevant to their lives; it matters. There are three main objectives when facilitating a Responsive Circle:
- Think about what was happening in the class that wasn’t working and have people take responsibility for what they were doing to contribute to that behavior.
- Ask what kind of atmosphere students and teachers ideally want in the classroom.
- Reflect and think about what each person is going to do to help attain the ideal setting.
Problem Solving Circles are utilized to offer a focus member of the community a chance to present a specific problem or concern and have a number of peers provide personal guidance and support. This circle follows a strict structure and time sequence to ensure that the participants stay on track and do not utilize the time to offer criticism or judgment on the content of the suggestions.
Problem Solving Circles often follow the Agenda described below:
- Focus student frames and explains problem.
- Focus student shares clear expectations for what they need from the group.
- Group asks any clarifying questions, to ensure all pertinent information is acquired.
- Group presents a number of various brainstorms or ideas – this step is completed without filter, cross talk or judgment.
- Focus student selects one idea that is to be implemented.
- Course Content
- Behavior Expectations
- Playing Games
- Review for a Test
- Present a Project / Assignment
- Problem arose in class
- Issue with a single student
- Patterns of misbehavior
- Entire class concern
- Conflicts outside of school
- Response to major incident
- Experiencing a dangerous situation
- Extensive academic assignment
- Issue with family member
- Ongoing peer conflict
- Framing a difficult conversation
- Threat of violence
- Internal conflict around outside forces
CIRCLES – Types
In a basic Sequential Circle everyone sits facing the center. Apart from an (optional) decorative center piece, there should be no obstructions, such as desks or tables. The circle is started with a reminder of the norms and agreements, followed by a check-in round. A talking piece can be used for the check-in round and the following rounds. The leader can ask for a volunteer to go first, answer the question and choose the direction to proceed (left or right of volunteer). Prior to the initial response, the volunteer chooses which direction the circle will go, providing ample time for the next individual sharing to think about their response. Some students may pass; when this happens, either skip the student or gently ask him or her to participate. Forcing students to speak when they are unwilling is usually counterproductive. However, setting a positive tone by establishing the expectation of participation is important. This reluctance is usually a result of fear or shyness and simply offering ample wait time or encouragement may be all that is necessary. At the end of the circle the talking piece is passed again for a closure round in which students may comment on their experience in the circle.
One of the benefits of a Sequential Circle is that it gives everyone a chance to speak and an opportunity for all voices to be heard. This can be particularly beneficial to quiet students who may be less inclined to offer their own opinions, thoughts and feelings without being prompted. In the context of the circle, these students have the potential to begin to play a leadership role that would not emerge otherwise.
Applications for a Sequential Go-Around Circle are limitless – it is great for a quick check-in, individual feedback or whole group discussion.
Non-Sequential Circles are more freely structured than Sequential Circles. Conversations proceed from one person to another in no fixed order. This type of circle allows for discussions to evolve organically and can be used effectively in multiple situations as well. Students only speak when they have something to say. How each speaker is determined is the defining feature of the Non-Sequential Circle, which may be highly structured, loosely structured or completely unstructured. Ground rules should be established at the beginning so everyone understands the format. A talking piece may be used, in a Non-Sequential way, to help keep order. Students may be required to raise their hands when they want to speak, and the teacher or student facilitator will then recognize one person as a time. In some groups, students may be allowed to call out or chime in at an appropriate moment without being formally recognized to speak. This helps develop sensitivity to the group.
The major disadvantage of the Non-Sequential circle is that not everyone is guaranteed a chance to speak. Non-Sequential Circles require more careful facilitation to ensure that all voices have a chance to be heard and that no one person or group of people dominates the conversation. As a result, it may be a good choice for when there is limited time for responding to a prompting question.
Fishbowls are an effective way to use circles with a larger number of participants. The Fishbowl allows certain participants, in the inner circle, to be active participants, while those in the outer circle act as observers. Fishbowls can be structured entirely for the observers’ benefit so that they can observe a specific process or certain interactions. They can also be set up for participants’ benefit, allowing observers to share their feedback at the end of the activity. The Fishbowl may also comprise a combination of these two structures. A common variation of the Fishbowl leaves one chair empty in the inner circle. Only those on the inner circle are permitted to speak, so this allows those in the outer circle to leave their seats and sit in the empty chair to make a brief comment and contribute to the discussion. They then return to their original seats, leaving the empty chair available to anyone else who wishes to participate.
One of the most beneficial uses of the Fishbowl is during a Problem Solving Circle. This allows for a smaller group of individuals to focus their feedback, streamlining the conversation, while still keeping the option for multiple people to participate.
CIRCLES – Agenda
The sequence of events is important. If you establish a Circle Pattern from the beginning, and use it consistently, students will know what to expect. The following sequence works well, although not every element is included in every circle. Each step in the sequence is discussed below.
Starting the Circle
1. Arrive (set-up)
2. State the purpose of the circle
3. Open the Circle
4. Teach and Remember Circle Norms
5. Make and Remember Agreements
Doing the Work of the Circle
6. Connection: Check in Round
7. Core Activities:
- Community Building
- Responding to Harm
- Problem Solving
8. Closure: Check out Round
Ending the Circle
9. Close the circle
Step 1: Arrive (before the circle): Check in with yourself prior to starting the circle. Assess your energy level, your emotional state, physical condition, and anything else that will have an impact on how you show up as a circle keeper. The goal is not necessarily to change anything, but simply to be aware. This awareness of your actual condition can be a powerful ally in circle keeping. Once centered, take this time to set up the physical space so it is prepped when students enter.
Step 2: Opening the Circle: After the students are seated in a circle, it is very helpful to have a routine that you use as a ceremony at the beginning of each circle. This marks a transition from regular classroom time into the “special” non-ordinary time of circle.
Step 3: Teach Circle Guidelines: Remind the class of, or ask them to recall, the norms that reliably help circles function well. Write them on the board as students recall or use posters.
Step 4: Make and Remember Agreements: In addition to the intentions, which apply to all circles, each individual class should be given multiple opportunities to make additional agreements, for example about confidentiality, gossip, and so on. Let the group find its own wording. All agreements should be by consensus. Agreements are not imposed by an authority; they are negotiated by the group.
Step 5: Connection: Do a check in Round with the talking piece. Begin every circle with a check-in round, in which all students are invited to respond to a question. This gives students a chance to put their voice into the circle and feel connected. In the first circles, keep this question very low-risk, and make it progressively more personal at a pace the circle can handle. It can be helpful to ask students for ideas about check-in questions. Relevant questions are preferable…meaning those questions that have to do with the actual situation.
Step 6: Core Activities: See descriptions above
Step 7: Closure Question. Ask students to comment on their experience in the circle. If you have very little time (as is often the case) ask for a two-word checkout: “Say two words about your experience in the circle today.” This “rounds out” the circle.
Step 8: Close the circle: In a way that is intentional—perhaps even a bit theatrical—put away the center, ring a bell, or make some other small gesture to signal moving back from circle time into ordinary time.
CIRCLES – Norms
There are standards for behavior in circles. One of the primary tasks of a circle leader is to teach, reinforce, and act as guardian of these standards.
Speak Your Truth: This means speaking for yourself, talking about what is true for you based on your own experiences. When we speak our truth we are speaking from the heart – we are aiming for eloquence, for choosing words that accurately communicate what we hold to be important.
Respect the Response: We are used to judging other people. Sometimes without even knowing anything about another person we will make assumptions about them. These assumptions can keep us from really hearing what they have to say…and what they have to say may be something that is important and helpful. So when we respect the response we are trying to set aside any stories we may hold about the person. This opens up the possibility of making wonderful discoveries about, and surprising connections with, each other.
Say Just Enough: Keep in mind the limits of time and making room for everyone to speak. This intention is also called “lean expression.” It is related to “Speak Your Truth” because we often find that when we speak carefully we can express ourselves with fewer words than we would normally use, and that when we do our words often have more impact. One way to think about this is, when you are considering what to say, ask, “Does it serve this circle in a good way?”
CIRCLES – Prompts High quality prompts are questions that give the circle its energy and focus. The circle keeper asks a question and invites everyone on the circle to respond (including the circle keeper). Some questions are proactive and are about building and maintaining community. Check-in questions are an example of this. Some prompts are about responding to specific challenges. Restorative questions are a sequence of prompts that guide dialogues leading to understanding the consequences of harmful behaviors, and agreements about how to repair those harms. Closure questions invite reflection on what has happened in the circle. High quality prompts have the following characteristics:
- They are relevant: questions about something that is real and meaningful to the lives of students.
- Often a high quality prompt gives voice to existing unspoken questions that are in the social field; consider this.
- Simple and clear language is used.
- They are open-ended: not yes-or-no questions, but worded in a way that invites deeper inquiry.
- They are about inquiry, not advocacy; discovery, not teaching facts or proving a point.
- Often prompts are related to current events for which time is not planned in the curriculum.
- They support re-storying. Re-storying is the process by which we loosen the grip that stories that we have constructed about each other and our world have on us, thus opening up new possibilities for how we see and experience each other.
- They energize the class and get the attention of students.
- They invite deeper follow-up questions.
Restorative Conferences occur in response to any incident of wrongdoing where harm has resulted and the need for repair is present.
- Objective: repair the harm by attending to the needs of all individuals directly and indirectly involved. Those needs may include but are not limited to the following:
- Opportunity to express how they feel
- Acknowledgement about what has happened to them
- Assurance that what happened was unfair and underserved
- Direct contact with others involved to hear them express shame and remorse about their actions, answer questions about the incident and assure them that it won’t happen again
- Those actively involved or directly impacted by the incident
- Parents / Guardians
- Family Members
- APSC / Dean
- Select and Invite all participants
- Those directly involved in the incident can nominate anyone they choose to accompany them and act as supporters in the conference.
- Facilitators may also invite individuals who were not directly involved but indirectly affected by the incident.
- Upon confirmation of attendance, facilitators must explain the conference process, objective and benefits, answer any outstanding questions, and begin to build trust and rapport with participants.
- Facilitate pre-conference meetings with all participants
- Prior to bringing all parties together, it is vital for the facilitator to gain knowledge of each participant’s level of accountability, needs requesting to be met, and willingness to take an active role in the conference.
- Participants must admit to their actions related to this incident in order to be eligible for a conference – although some may minimize or displace responsibility, it is essential for all participants to have some presence of accountability.
- Identify date, time, location, seating arrangement, and supplemental documents
***Additional note that additional consequences outside restorative process will be at the discretion of the principal and according to district policy.