By Paul Stein, Executive Director
Restorative practices provide safe forums; they give each community member a voice. They are a set of tools that foster the development of relationships and build community. Restorative circles, in particular, allow participants to speak up while actively listening to one another.
At the same time, they enable people to repair relationships following the conflicts that are part and parcel of communities. Restorative practices are inherently democratic, in the sense that all are treated equally, all have equal say, and all have equal responsibility in addressing problems. This is why restorative practices are such a compelling and empowering approach, particularly for groups that have historically felt powerless or invisible, silenced or speechless.
When restorative practices are well ingrained in a school culture, students find ways to build relationships, avoid problems, and manage conflict. When there are disagreements and/or hurt feelings, students use the lessons of restorative practice to gain insight and to work to make amends.
At Schools for Children, the integration of restorative practices into Dearborn Academy and Seaport Academy, in particular, is much less about managing conflict than it is about building community. The resulting positive relationships, deepened conversations, and mutual understandings among students and staff have been transformative.