How to Successfully Implement Restorative Practice in the Classroom
Updated: Jan 9
Restorative practice has emerged as one of the most favoured methodologies to use in schools as a better way to correct student behaviour. Rather than using punitive measures and punishments, restorative practice promotes a positive mindset change in both teachers and students. Teachers should implement restorative practices in order to establish and maintain mutual respect, resolve issues, and make positive changes. By showing children that problems and obstacles are opportunities for growth, students will learn that a positive outcome can arise out of most situations.
What Are Restorative Practices?
Restorative practices aim to repair harm through learning and community participation.
In a school environment, this focuses on establishing a positive, respectful and inclusive school culture by developing relationships with students (and other staff) based on a foundation of trust, mutual respect and empathy. It is important to create a safe environment for students so that they can adopt and develop healthy mindsets and be in the right head-space to develop coping mechanisms for when things don't go to plan.
Restorative practice is based on;
shifting away from punishment to reflective learning.
raising student awareness of how their own actions cause problematic situations
community participation in the healing process
In essence, restorative practices aim to demonstrate that conflict resolution via communication has a positive impact.
Benefits of Restorative Practice
Aside from strengthening the bong and relationships between you and your students, restorative practice has also been shown to reduce minor disruptive behaviour, combat poor attendance and reduce bullying. There are many fundamental benefits of restorative practice which lead to long-term changes in behaviour and mindset.
Students learn responsibility. When students are able to take ownership of the problematic situations in their life, their sense of self-awareness develops and they understand how their negative behaviours can impact others. Rather than shifting the blame, students are able to recognise where they went wrong and take ownership of that.
Students learn consequences. When students learn that there will be consequences to their actions, they may think twice. Zero-tolerance policies should be made very clear and always followed through on.
Teaching conflict resolution. Students will learn how to resolve conflict through communication, patience and understanding instead of fighting. By being able to remain calm, express feelings and brainstorm good solutions, students will learn great skills that seek mutually desirable goals when it comes to conflict resolution.
Students practice empathy. Students learn by observation, so be sure to show them empathy and they will pick it up and be able to demonstrate empathy in their own relationships. Give them examples of how others may feel in certain situations.
Students embrace forgiveness. Teach students that forgiveness involves releasing their anger toward the person who wronged them. Reinforce in their mind that it takes time to learn how to forgive and that holding a grudge harms them more than the person who hurt them.
Show the importance of communication. Communication is key in so many aspects of life. Being able to have pleasant and difficult conversations, understanding turn taking and displaying active listening are all important aspects children need to learn.
Building strong relationships. Restorative justice helps improve relationships between students and school staff. Social and emotional learning allow teachers and support staff to foster great relationships with students - you're showing you genuinely care, are invested in their lives, and want to help them succeed.
Encourages students to face fears. Everyone has fears and worries. Help your class to overcome their fears through distracting physical or mental activities and conversation. Explain that there are ways to arrive at a solution for every problem. They can write a shortlist of solutions and how to implement a plan to execute one or more of those solutions.
Examples of Restorative Practices
These practices create positive changes to the way you correct student behaviour throughout the year. Consider discussing these practices with the senior leadership team and governors to stop punitive discipline measures. You'll find that the whole school benefits from a reduction in problematic behaviour.
Have Classroom Rules and Respect Agreements
Having the children involved with deciding the classroom rules and expectations creates a collective community spirit where everyone has a vested interest in picking rules that benefit the whole class. Together, create a list of expected behaviours, problem-solving methods and effective ways of respecting and supporting each other.
Phrase the rules in a positive way, emphasising the behaviours you do want to see, e.g. "Raise your hand if you want to speak." vs "No shouting out". Also provide examples of things students can do when they feel a particular emotion. For example, "If you feel angry, you can go to the Calm Corner and read, do some breathing exercises or explore the sensory box." When kids learn how to self-regulate their thoughts and emotions, they'll notice a difference in the way they feel and react.
Respect agreements remind students what it means to show respect toward each other, their teachers, and school property. They can also be displayed in a visual way somewhere in the classroom so students and teachers can refer to it at any time.
How students respect each other. E.g. being polite, cooperative, being kind and refraining from using inappropriate language.
How students respect teachers and staff. E.g. Paying attention, abiding by school rules, participating in class.
How you can respect students. E.g. Be kind to all students, make lessons interesting and fun, and listen when students need help.
How you and the students respect the school and property. E.g no littering, no vandalism, keeping desks tidy and clean.
Creating a class Code of Conduct teaches children about what behaviours are acceptable, but also that they deserve respect from others. Basic agreements reinforce acceptable behaviour and teach learners to practice respect every day.
Have Restorative Conversations
Restorative conversations encourage the sharing of feelings and emotions without guilt or shame or judgement. Some questions that could help you start more restorative conversations are;
Who else is affected by your actions?
What happened to make you feel X?
What can you do to solve this problem?
What were your thoughts when this incident happened?