Rotary Global Grant Blog February 2018

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February has been a busy and exciting month providing training for the Victoria University Residential Advisors (RAs) in Restorative Practices. The RAs play an important role in the creation of caring and connected communities on campus and in finding ways to respond to wrongdoing that repair rather than punish. To learn more about the Restorative University efforts at Victoria University, check out the article I wrote for the Journal of Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association, “Building a Restorative University.”

In designing trainings, one of my favorite things to do is to create games and activities to help explain a concept or spark conversation and deeper learning. I find that a well-facilitated group discussion reflecting on a shared experience often generates greater insight than I could ever bring alone as instructor. I also see this approach to teaching as in alignment with Restorative Pedagogy. In the pictures above, you will see an image of the most recent game I designed based on the Social Discipline Window. It was a hit with the RAs and really helped to deepen their understanding of what differentiates a restorative conversation from a punitive or permissive conversation with a resident.

In addition to training the RAs, I also offered introductory workshops in Restorative Practices for visiting students from the Creation Care Study Program and for the Capital Mosaic community. I love any opportunity to share the restorative paradigm shift with others!

This month I was also asked to facilitate a mock restorative justice conferenced for the EdX course on Restorative Justice that is being designed an delivered by my PhD supervisors Chris Marshall and Tom Noakes-Duncan and my colleague Haley Farrar. They have been hard at work creating an excellent online course that is free and available to anyone in the world. If you are interested in learning more about Restorative Justice, you can enroll here.

You can check out this month’s edition of the of the Rotary District 5540 Peacebuilder Newsletter here. I was honored to have my piece in this newsletter shared by Rotary Voices.

Thank you to Rotary for the continued support of my research and work here. I couldn’t imagine a greater opportunity! I am back to writing now to meet my next chapter deadline. 🙂

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Learning to Work “With” (The Social Discipline Window)

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“Human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things with them, rather than to them or for them.”

– Ted Wachtel

The Social Discipline Window describes four basic approaches to addressing behavior that needs to be changed. Restorative practitioners use this tool to gauge the best response to a specific incident or ongoing issue. The four strategies are represented as different combinations of high or low control and high or low support. The word “control” never seems like quite the right fit to me, so I instead use “expectations of behavior” or “accountability.” The restorative domain combines high expectations of behavior and high support and is characterized by doing things with people, rather than to them or for them. A restorative approach allows us to address the problematic behavior, while also practicing empathy and maintaining a strong relationship.

Take, for example, a student who is repeatedly disruptive in class, speaking over the teacher and making loud comments and jokes.

The Neglectful strategy is to not do anything, to hope that the student will just eventually stop.

The Punitive strategy is punishment, doing something to the person who is misbehaving. The teacher might give the student detention or remove privileges like being able to come on a field trip. The strategy holds the student to a high expectation of behavior, but has very little support. This strategy may result in animosity between the teacher and student, and will not address the core issues or needs contributing to the problematic behavior.

The Permissive strategy is when we do things for someone. We accept their excuses or make excuses for them. The teacher might tell herself that the student is just trying to be liked by the other students because he has been having trouble making friends, or that his unrestrained enthusiasm is a sign that he is enjoying the class. A possible outcome is that other students, seeing that a high expectation of behavior is not upheld, will similarly begin to speak out of turn, and the teacher will slowly lose the respect of the class and the ability to facilitate an effective learning space.

The Restorative strategy is when we work with the person to resolve the issue. The teacher would speak with the disruptive student one-on-one, explain the impacts his disruptive behavior, and respectfully ask the student about his experience and what is going on. This keeps communication open and allows the teacher to find out what needs are contributing to the student’s misbehavior. Is the student having trouble making friends? Are there troubles at home that are impacting the student’s behavior at school? Are there other more productive ways that the student would like to be an outgoing leader in the classroom? Does the student need additional material to challenge him and keep him on task? The teacher and student would work together to understand what are the barriers to meeting the behavior expectations and how can those barriers be addressed.

What strikes me about the restorative strategy for addressing behavior issues is the humility it requires on the part of the teacher, facilitator, parent or other person of authority. Rather than thinking that we know best and approaching the problem with an already formed answer (as is the case in both the punitive and the permissive strategies), the restorative strategy approaches the issue by asking questions, with a humble and compassionate desire to better understand. It is the only strategy that allows us to actually get to the core of the issue.

There are a few strategies you can use to address conflicts and issues in your own life restoratively.

  1. Ask questions! Don’t assume that you know why a person is doing something, what their needs are, or the best strategy for making things right. Remember to make questions open-ended (so they can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”) and to use a tone of respect and non-judgment.
  2. In approaching an issue, follow the framework of the three central restorative questions.
    1. What happened?
    2. Who was affected and how?
    3. What is needed to repair the harms and make things right?
  1. Commit some time to self-reflection and identify which strategy in the Social Discipline Window is your default response. Are you prone to avoiding conflict and doing nothing, to jumping straight to punishment, or to making or accepting excuses for poor behavior? Knowing this about yourself will help you to know which direction you need to push yourself. Do you need to remind yourself to hold high expectations of behavior with the people in your life or do you need to remember to take a step back and show support?

In each of the communities and interactions that make up our lives, the Social Discipline Window offers us a tool for thinking about how to approach issues and conflicts more restoratively.

Rotary Global Grant Blog January 2018

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Happy New Year! I welcomed 2018 watching fireworks over the Wellington Harbor and feeling incredibly grateful for both the year past and the year ahead.

The highlight of January was a visit from my brother (Eli) that started on January 1st. What a great way to start the year! We took full advantage of a beautiful New Zealand summer and explored the South Island from Dunedin to Kaikoura and took a short road trip on the North Island as well. It was wonderful to get to share my life here with Eli and to go on a great adventure together!

Since he left, I have been getting back into the swing of researching, writing, and preparing for the year ahead. The university is starting to pick up following summer break and this week we start training the new Heads of Hall and Residential Advisors in Restorative Practices. It is a busy and exciting month ahead!

I am continuing to contribute to the NACRJ (National Association of Restorative Justice) newsletter, The Restorative Well. To read the most recent issue, click here.

You can check out the most recent edition of the Rotary District 5440 Peacebuilder Newsletter here. 

For my reflections on the US Senate’s recent use of a Talking Stick during the government shutdown, check out The Power of the Talking Piece. 

For my thoughts on how a paradigm shift proposed in the medical field could also impact peace building efforts, check out Peace in the Soil.