The Restorative Approach is a philosophy or guiding principle (not a program or specific activity) that sees relationships as central to learning, growth and a healthy school climate for students and adults.
Restorative Practices enable us to integrate and normalize this approach within a school culture. Restorative practices focus on building, maintaining and, when necessary, repairing relationships among all members of a school community.
A comprehensive, whole-school approach incorporates various restorative practices throughout the school, with an emphasis on building a culture of respect and care. These practices may include: language that invites and encourages curiosity, empathy, respect, trust, honesty, compassion, accountability, inclusion, repairing harm and collaboration; conflict resolution, peer mediation and relational literacy programs; Community Circles for relationship-building and problem-solving; Resolution Circles (detention) for deciding on consequences for student misbehavior; restorative dialogue between staff and students to address misbehavior; and formal, facilitated Restorative Conferences for more serious situations.
Restorative rather than punitive approaches to discipline deal more effectively with student misbehavior by encouraging students to be accountable for their actions and find ways to “make things right” with those they have harmed. Restorative discipline empowers students by helping them to learn from their mistakes in a school environment that is caring and responsive. Restorative discipline focuses on relationships and community, rather than on punishment (often isolation) for breaking rules. The accountability comes from the harmer recognizing the impact of their actions on others and agreeing to repair the harm caused. The process includes the person or persons harmed in deciding on the consequences. Restorative consequences may be apologies, restitution, community service and other agreed-upon ways to make amends and move forward.
Restorative practices are proving successful in schools across the country and in Maine. Within a whole school approach, these practices build a caring school community that supports students, staff and administrators in feeling connected and respected, which enhances learning outcomes. Restorative practices create safe schools where all members of the community are accountable for their actions, resolve conflicts, create positive relationships, and build an inclusive, respectful school culture.
If your school is interested in exploring a whole school approach, contact:
Barb Blazej, coordinator
Restorative School Practices of Maine
A program of The Restorative Justice Project, Belfast