A Restorative Approach to Develop a Positive Learning Environment

So why do we care about peaceful schools? What is a peaceful school?
A peaceful school is a place where we have healthy relationships between students, parents, teachers and staff; creating a school culture and environment that is nurturing and safe while promoting better social and academic development. So why do we care about this?

Our goal to develop students that exhibit the ability to be caring, empathetic, forward-thinking, international-minded, socially conscious and self-driven as well as academically successful. To develop these individuals, we need to provide them with a safe and nurturing atmosphere that models these behaviors. When the brain is under stress, it has a difficult time functioning normally. Research has shown the brain does not do well under stress.

So how do we develop a peaceful school?

Today there are many programs out there to help develop a peaceful school and many of them are based on the same principals. For this blog entry, I will focus on the first steps we took at my school. This journey started three years ago when as a school we identified the need to have a more systematic approach to dealing with behavior issues and conflict at Osaka YMCA International School. Like many schools, we had talented group teachers, but we all had very different ideas about how to deal with behavior issues and conflict. As a group, we recognized we needed to develop a common philosophy that would give the school consistency, but also let teachers have some autonomy over how they dealt with issues in their classes.

After doing some research, we decided as a group we would like to explore what restorative practices looked in a school and arranged for David Vinegrad from “Behaviour Matters” come in for a weekend workshop. David was amazing! After spending a weekend with him we all realized this was a philosophy we could all buy into, but we would need to make it our own.

What is Restorative Practice?

Restorative practices are based on the philosophy of Restorative Justice. Restorative Practice is an approach that emphasizes rights, responsibilities, positive relationships, productivity and collaboration while trying to meet the individual needs of the community. It involves viewing conflicts or wrongdoings through the lens of harm being done to a relationship. A relationship is defined as the way a community acts and communicates with each other. When such harm or damage occurs to a relationship, there is an obligation to focus on trying to repair the harm or make things right. The philosophy primarily focuses on improving or repairing relationships and less on punitive punishments. However, logical consequences and sanctions (e.g. detentions, suspensions, staff disciplinary procedures) are still used but in the context of RP (e.g. “what can you do to make things right?”).

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