Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Checking perceptions of justice

Insights into how we really dispense justice can be powerful and essential contributions to aching change. I suspect that many staff would be surprised at the what they actually practice.

Staff perceptions
One way to bring these out would be to
1. Get several staff members to tell a story of a recent difficult situation and how it was dealt with, then
2. Get them to rate it (putting dots on a triangle) in terms of
  • retribution,
  • deterrence and
  • restoration
I would see such an exercise as being important in the implementation of Restorative Practices in any school.

Student Perceptions
And there is another 'triangle' that could also be useful... in this one students might rate staff  in terms of whether they are

  • controlling (assertive/aggressive)
  • helpful (altruistic)
  • just focused on the facts  (analytical)
Same technique: get each student to
1. Tell the story of a recent experience then
2. Rate what the staff did (put dots on a triangle) in terms of in terms of the these three possible responses

The Role of the School in Restorative Practices

Restorative Practices involve a major response from the school itself (over and above the staff response). Staff need PL (knowledge, skills and understanding) but, that is just the beginning...
RP involves a change of culture which requires
  • engagement of senior staff in the everyday life and work of the school, especially
  • engagement of senior staff in the everyday conversations
  • and a change in governance 

Associated changes in school governance need to be made and communicated ...
  • the school accepts responsibility for the use of RP (staff act on behalf of the school)
  • the school enables staff to use RP - time, provides structures, process, support, back-up, recovery strategies and assistance (it need to be OK to fail, at least in the short-term),
  • the school monitors the use, costs and contributions of RP (especially to capture the learning and experiences...)
  • the school genuinely lives the values required at all levels
  • the school understands RP as an investment (not just a solution), which means,
  • the school accepts that it is OK to lose time now in order to save time later on

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Consequences and our notions of justice

I came across an interesting study the other day. The study collected stories involving justice issues - what happened and how things were handled.

The study then asked the contributors to tag their stories in terms of the extent to which they were about
1. Retribution (on behalf of the victim???)
2. Deterrence of the offender and others from repeating the offence
3. Restoration of the offender

Lots of food for thought here I think.

I suspect a lot of the use of 'logical' consequences in schools is
  - about retribution
  - justified as a deterrent
  - with an implied 'logical' outcome of 'restoration' of the offender 

Of course, our responses are shaped by
  - the significance of what happened, and 
  - the offender's response.

And, what we believe others would expect of us is also very powerful. I continue to be amazed at how little awareness many people (not just teachers) have regarding the natural consequences of doing the wrong thing. It is common for the natural consequences to be underestimated or simply disregarded.

Doing the wrong thing is very bad for the offender (Glasser was strong on this).

IMHO, one of the most common reasons kids continue to be difficult after doing the wrong thing is that
  - they are embarrassed  - the know they have done the wrong thing and wish they hadn't, and 
  - they feel disempowered - it can't be undone, and they don't know how to fix it up.

So to save face they get into denial, blaming, justifying.... It is a very painful to lose face - something I never required of a student. Maybe Restorative Practices is as much about restoring the offender's face as it is about restoring relationships.

After all, face is very much the key element in all relationships.