I was invited back to a school that I delivered restorative training to, to observe how they were using the principles and values in practice and to consult on developing their skills further. It was an exciting time. But it was also a little nerve wracking if I'm honest. As a trainer, I know that what I deliver works when it is put into practice. But once I have delivered the knowledge and skills to teachers, I have no control over whether they apply the principles as they should be (and as many media articles have had great pleasure in reporting, when the practice is delivered poorly the outcomes are not favourable!)
The class was a primary 2 class - so the children were between 5 and 6 years old. This is an age which teachers who attend my training often tell me "children won't get it." But oh my goodness - they really do get it when you have teachers like this one.
I had been there for about 40 mins, the children had finally stopped being distracted by me and had been directed to complete work at their desks while the teacher listened to a small group of children reading at the front of the class. After a few minutes the noise levels in the class started to rise. The teacher was distracted and "shushed" the class a few times. I was interested... I could see the teacher's frustration beginning to peak. She got up, and walked to the front of class. What she did next was the loveliest example of restorative classroom management I had seen in a long time.
"Boys and Girls" she said. "I have a problem, can you put on your super sleuth hats and circle up?"
Immediately, as if they had been primed for this moment, all the children, pulled their chairs into a (haphazard) semi circle and (get this.... cutest thing ever), pulled on imaginary super sleuth hats.
"My problem", she said, "is I really need to hear the children at the front reading, but the noise level in the class is too high. I'd love your help - any ideas how you can help me solve my problem?" The kids were loving this.
Kid: "We could put our fingers on our lips and shush"
Teacher: "That's a good idea - I like that"
Kid: "We could put our heads down and go to sleep" (I love this kid)
Teacher: "A good idea but I also need you to do the work that I set for you."
Kid: "We could whisper to each other"
Teacher: "Another great idea"
Teacher: These are great solutions - lets try them out - we can decide how well it worked after I've finished reading with the group at the front.
The class went back to work and the teacher went back to reading at the front. The noise levels subsided and periodically over the next 15 minutes they rose again only to be shushed by one of the children and to subside again.
I felt immensely proud of that teacher. She had taken all of the learning from the training and had genuinely put it into practical practice.
She used problem solving circles to
identify how the impact of the noise on her feelings was founded on her own needs, not the behaviour of others, (if that doesn't make sense - you need to come and do our training where I will explain the importance of recognising that your feelings come from your needs and not from what other people do to you),
empower the children to be part of the solution
hold the boundary when one of the child came up with a less than desirable solution
provide an opportunity for the children to review their solution and so turned a discipline moment into a learning moment.
If you would like to know more about how to engage the children in your school in restorative practice, if you would like to find a more peaceful and cooperative way to resolve issues in your classroom, the corridors, playground and beyond, or if you would simply like to see if working in this way would hold value for you, then check out our Introduction to Restorative Practices in Education Settings. We have an online course as our face to face courses are not currently running during the COVID-19 crisis.
Or contact me, Linda, on 07805093965. Stay safe.