Connections Quarterly Winter 2019 - Restorative Practices - Page 5

S TA R TI N G W I TH A PAU S E “ What is Restorative Communication? If you Googled “restorative communica- tion (RC)” right now you would not find one agreed upon definition. But if you read a dozen of the related articles or books you would find a common focus on the power of: creating a compassionate, relational space for all voices to be heard, exploring the unmet needs at the core of the conflict, and using an inquiry-based protocol for re- pairing the harm and moving forward. Spe- cifically, current restorative approach litera- ture references “affective statements”—the practice of taking responsibility for one’s own feelings instead of projecting or blam- ing—as the core element of this approach. In addition, principles and practices from Marshall B. Rosenberg’s approach called “Nonviolent Communication” are often in- corporated in RC training. Finally, RC asks us to avoid deficit thinking and language that identifies a person as the “problem” and in- stead refer to the incident or behavior as the problem. So instead of thinking “How do we deal with the bully?” We ask, “What needs to happen to prevent John from feeling the need to bully others?” In this way, RC is not only a way we speak to kids, but also a way we speak about kids and to each other. ... instead of thinking ‘How do we deal with the bully?’ We ask, ‘What needs to happen to prevent John from feeling the need to bully others?’ ” hold onto the hope that if we just come up with a more exciting lesson plan or read more classroom management books we will succeed in this goal. The truth is much more complex and gets more so every day as anxiety, depression, trauma, and other behavioral challenges increase in schools everywhere. Outside of what I’ve learned from others about this approach is the first-hand experi- ence I’ve had with students. What I know for sure is that two factors influence the suc- cess or failure of RC more than any script you come up with. First are the eyes with which you see the student. Biases, assump- tions, beliefs, and ignorance all cloud how we see a student. Before we can have a suc- cessful restorative conversation we need to drop what we think we know and work to learn what we don’t know. It is, therefore, the responsibility of every educator to become trauma-informed and culturally competent. Second, students respond more to the qual- ity of our presence than to the perfection of our words. Our habits of communication are With this approach, everyone, including John, can learn how to have a conversation that leads to engagement, peaceful resolu- tion, learning, and repair, instead of esca- lation, disengagement, and/or exclusion. And in the field of restorative practices in schools, that is the goal—to create the con- ditions for students to engage and remain engaged in learning. As teachers, we often Continues on page 4 CSEE Connections Winter 2019 Page 3