The Core of Restorative Practice

  • The core of restorative practices is building and restoring r e l a t i o n s h i p s.

    Restorative practices range from informal to formal. On a restorative practices continuum, the informal practices include affective statements and questions that communicate peoples’ feelings, and allow for reflection on how their behavior has affected others. Impromptu restorative conferences and circles are somewhat more structured, while formal conferences require more elaborate preparation. Moving from left to right on the continuum, as restorative processes become more formal, they involve more people, require more planning and time, and are more structured and complete.

    “Although a formal restorative process might have a dramatic impact, informal practices have a cumulative impact because they are part of everyday life.” (Hanson, 2005)

    Affective Statements: the starting point for all restorative processes involving active non-judgmental listening and expression of feelings and impact. Affective statements allow students and staff to build strengthened relationships by genuinely presenting oneself as someone who cares and has feelings. This authentic expression offers one the opportunity to learn and reflect on how their behavior has affected others.

    Restorative Discussion: A restorative approach to helping those harmed by others' actions, as well as responding to challenging behavior, consists in asking key questions:

    Restorative Questions:

    • What happened, and what were you thinking at the time?
    • What have you thought about since?
    • Who has been affected by what you have done? In what way?
    • What about this has been hardest for you?
    • What do you think you need to do to make things as right as possible?

    Proactive and Responsive Circles: circles can be used for team building and problem-solving. It enables a group to get to know each other, builds inclusion, and allows for the development of mutual respect, trust, sharing, and concern. Circles provide students with opportunities to share their feelings, ideas, and experiences in order to establish relationships and develop social norms on a non-crisis basis. When there is wrongdoing, circles play an active role in addressing the problem and making things right.

    Restorative Meetings/Conferences: These involve those who have acknowledged causing harm meeting with those they have harmed, seeking to understand each other’s perspective and coming to a mutual agreement which will repair the harm as much as possible. Often, all sides bring supporters, who have usually been affected, and have something to say from a personal perspective.