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Restorative practices demonstrates community building

Written on December 1st, 2011

Restorative practices demonstrates community building
Transition has been rewarding, says GCCS principal
Thursday December 1, 2011 — Jennifer Neutel
Principal Bob Moore says through using restorative practices at Guelph Community Christian School (GCCS), parents know the school is working hard at building community and ensuring children are receiving and giving one another fair treatment.

Moore says restorative practices fits nicely in with the Christian worldview of creation, fall, redemption and restoration.

“Restorative practices starts with the premise the ideal is that we live in harmony and live in community, a community where we are sensitive to each other, we respect each other, we understand each other and we think about the other person before we act or speak,” says Moore.

While the school has been using the idea of restorative practices for several years, this year it started calling it restorative practices as a way to provide language to parents about its discipline policy.

The school builds these elements through classroom circles where the children take turns speaking and listening to one another. The circles also provide the opportunity for children to understand what is important to one another and what others are going through.

The expectation for respectful interaction and fair treatment of one another is set, says Moore.

He says when there are issues restorative practices are used to try and restore relationships. It is not just about keeping rules, but ensuring relationships are being developed, maintained, and restored when they are broken, he notes.

“Sometimes I say it’s not about breaking God’s rules it’s about breaking God’s heart, and so restorative practices is a way of structuring that in,” says Moore.

When an incident occurs, children come together and talk about what happened, who was affected by the actions and how they were affected.

Moore says this means thinking in terms of the what, the who, and the “unseen what,” and then talk about how to put things right. When the children leave, everyone feels that they have been heard, understood, and that they are safe, he adds.

“The child that was hurt feels safe going forward and the child who did the hurt feels that they still belong to the community even though they did something wrong, they still belong, they’ve been given a chance to reconnect and restore that relationship,” he says.

In addition to using restorative practices when there is a conflict, teachers can use the method in a proactive way, says Moore. He notes the Grade 8 teacher has done this, as a handful of her students were new this year. Using restorative practices, the teacher successfully integrated the students into the class, he says.

“It’s those types of things that are really very reassuring and rewarding, encouraging, as we make this transition,” he says.

The school is hosting restorative practices assemblies Dec. 8 led by guest speaker Bruce Schenk, the director of International Institute for Restorative Practices Canada. There will be three assemblies, for the primary, junior and intermediate grades, and parents are welcome to attend.

Moore says the presentation is an opportunity to ask questions, to clarify points, to reinforce points and give people a better understanding of restorative practices.