Description of Restorative Practice

The theory and practice behind Restorative Practice is to build community, teach empathy, and nurture accountability. These practices have evolved to include a wide variety of settings and disciplines, they continue to hold in common a basic thread, which is to keep the resolution of conflict in the hands of those most affected by the conflict rather than resolution being imposed by an external authority. The participants in the conflict are given the responsibility and the tools for finding a resolution.

Restorative Practice is integrated into the elementary classroom in two ways. First, Circle Up. Teachers should take the first 10-15 minutes out of each day to hold their Circle Up time. Students and teachers sit in a circle eye level, either on the floor or in chairs. The class should decide on a talking piece with the class expectation that the only person that can talk is the person holding the item. Discussion topics are available at http://www.restorativecommunities.org/training-portal.html. Teachers should always begin the discussion modeling the guidelines for Circle Up which are:

  • Speak from the heart
  • Listen from the heart
  • No need to rehearse
  • Say just enough without feeling rushed
  • Only the person with the talking piece talks
  • Whatever is shared in circle stays within our group

Restorative Chat is the second piece to the Restorative Practice program. This technique is used for relationships that need to be restored in a small group setting with the teacher facilitating the discussion. When students have tried to resolve conflict on their own the teacher may suggest a "Chat" with the students involved. Restorative Chats include:

  • Engagement-inviting both students into the dialogue
  • Reflection-encouraging thoughtfulness and empathy
  • Understanding how people have been affected (the harm done)
  • Acknowledgment of the harm done and a possible apology
  • Agreement-making a plan to fix things
  • Arranging for follow-up (making sure the plan is working)

The procedure for "Chats" is similar to the Circle Up where students will sit in a circle at eye level. The teacher should set the guidelines that only one person can speak at a time and everyone will have the opportunity to share. The script for Restorative Chats are as follows:

Questions to the victim

  • What did you think when it happened?
  • What have you thought about since?
  • How has it affected you?
  • What's been the worst of it?
  • What's needed to make things right?
  • How can we make sure this doesn't happen?

Questions for the wrongdoer:

  • We're here to talk about …
  • What happened?
  • What were you thinking at the time?
  • What have you thought about since?
  • Who do you think has been affected?
  • In what way?
  • What do you need to do to make things right?
  • How can we make sure this doesn't happen?
  • What can I do to help you?
When stuck:
  • Was it the right or wrong thing to do?
  • Was it fair or unfair?
  • What exactly are you sorry for?
  • You didn't answer my question.

The teacher should arrange for a follow up to make sure the plan is working.

The Restorative Practice method creates a dialogue in which emotional awareness is encouraged and learning can take place for all parties. The model recognizes that since the motivation behind these acts is emotionally charged, the resolution must be also. You can find more information and training available at http://www.restorativecommunities.org/training-portal.html