Restorative conversations can be a highly effective way of improving behaviour in school, but many school leaders find it difficult moving staff away from a rewards and punishments based approach towards a restorative one. So how do you get that transition right?
In this Essentials episode, head teacher Janine Dodds shares her journey implementing restorative practice her school successfully. She explains what made restorative work for her staff and students, the challenges she faced introducing it - and how she overcame those challenges.
Click here for the full interview from episode 22.
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Show notes / transcription
Janine Dodds 0:00
Because a lot of our children were coming to school with experiencing trauma, adverse childhood experiences, we've got a high level of child protection there. So the behaviour of being shamed, being sent out of class wasn't good for their self esteem. And actually, it wasn't solving any problems. All it was doing was manifesting more and making them more and more angry. We thought this would be a good approach.
Simon Currigan 0:23
Welcome to the school behaviour secrets podcast. I'm your host, Simon Currigan. My co host is Emma Shackleton and we're obsessed with helping teachers, school leaders, parents, and of course students. When classroom behaviour gets in the way of success. We're going to share the tried and tested secrets to classroom management, behavioural special needs power school strategy, and more. All with the aim of helping your students reach their true potential. Plus, we'll be letting you eavesdrop on our conversations with thought leaders from around the world. So you'll get to hear the latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the school behaviour secrets podcast.
Hi there, Simon Currigan here and welcome to another essentials episode of School Behaviour Secrets. In these essentials episodes, I share with you one important strategy or insight from an earlier interview episode that can make a real difference for the students you work with in your school or your classroom. And these little reminders are more important than ever, I think when we're also busy and overwhelmed and distracted in the modern school workplace. In this essentials episode, I'm actually going to share part of Emma's interview with Janine Dodds from Episode 22. Now Emma interviewed Janine to find out how she had helped successfully implement restorative practice in her school. And I know that restorative conversations are something that a lot of our listeners have a strong interest in. I want to pick up the interview where Emma asked why Janine school had decided to explore a restorative approach in the first place.
Janine Dodds 1:59
It was just shortly after I started working there as a deputy head, the head teacher had only been in situ for probably about 10 months, the school had gone through a very turbulent time and the name of the school wasn't very good. It was known for bad behaviour in the school, they'd had a lot of head teachers come in and go in and cover it was requires improvement. So there was a lot going on there that actually without behaviour, it was about the learning as well. So when we got there, they use the normal behaviour, strategies, charts, stickers, but wasn't consistent across school. And staff relied heavily on senior leaders to deal with behaviour issues that were happening. So the head teacher then went off to a meeting and there was a pilot for the restorative approach. So we decided as a school that we'd like to have a go at that. So the trainer came in to delivery to the senior leadership team, we liked what we saw, they then went to governors and did a presentation to them, they liked it as well. So we decided as a school, we would take this forward, we thought it would be a way of children having a voice. Because a lot of our children were coming to school with experiencing trauma, adverse childhood experiences, we've got a high level of child protection there. So the behaviour of being shamed, being sent out of class wasn't good for their self esteem. And actually, it wasn't solving any problems. All it was doing was manifesting more and making them more and more angry, we thought this would be a good approach. Our children come in with very low language skills. So they hadn't got the language to be able to solve problems, or say how they were feeling or actually talk to people, it was more about shouting, you know, they'd been used to being shouted at in school they'd been used to being shouted at at home. So they did it with their peers. And that's how they saw it was a way of solving problems. It also was that actually our children were going back into class after they'd have problems at lunchtime. We know lunch times is always a sparky time, and they were carried on. So it affected learning. It disrupted classes. So we just thought this would be a way of looking at a different approach.
Emma Shackleton 4:05
So that sounds like quite a big transformation in your school. Can you describe a little bit about how you got that ball rolling, and how you started implementing this fastly new strategy and approach in your school,
Janine Dodds 4:19
we went to staff and we said, this is what we want to do. So we did a staff meeting first to introduce it to say, we know there are issues we know that people want solutions. As soon as leaders we can't be in every classroom solving the issues with behaviour. We did a whole day staff training with the trainers. And that was a whole school, because it had got to be a whole school approach. It had got to be everybody. So that was the office staff, cleaning staff and lunchtime supervisors. Everybody was involved. We went through what the restorative approach was how we do it. We all had to do roleplay and we all mixed up. So everybody knew that this was going to be a consistent approach in school and this was the language that we were going Don't be using with children, we had some resistance from some staff because a lot of people come in with our own ideas about behaviour about punishments, they thought children should be punished for what they did, but we still went with it. With our staff, with a lot of people, we all have been brought up different, we've all got different values. So bringing this all together and trying to get us all on the same page, we knew was going to be an uphill battle with some staff, and, you know, challenge my perception as well. Because you know, here we are. Now, we'll just didn't do in this. It's a different way. But I've done a lot of work on behaviour when I was at university, and part of my dissertation was about behaviour. So it seemed the next step for me, I thought this was the right way. So we started in September, we introduced it to the children, we told them, we did a big assembly with them, I said, this is what's going to happen, because the way we're solving problems isn't helping anybody, everybody's getting upset. And we need to be able to repair what's been done and move on and for you to come up with the solution not for us to come up with it. So we've talked to them about the fact that we're not doing it to them, we were doing it with them. So we're going to facilitate them. And we're going to give them the language to be able to do that. So we started and it was funny, you could tell children were very shocked about Alright, they've had a falling out. Let's go and talk about this. We'd sit down. And we talked with a charge, you know, and it was you know, what happened, what was happening before and all of those things that we went through. And so everybody had a script to use. So we're all using the same language.
Emma Shackleton 6:27
Janine, do you think that script gave the staff confidence that they knew exactly what you meant? Because I guess some people might have already had experience of the approach. And for some people, it would have been brand new. So do you think the script was valuable in getting everybody on the same page and giving them some tools?
Janine Dodds 6:46
Yeah, because it gave us structure. So you'd start off with, you know, when what happened, what was happening before? So they knew that that was their first question. And the children started to learn. That was the first question. And they were all given a voice. So it was like, well, we're going to have this restorative conversation now. So we're all going to listen. So we're going to start with you first and with you. Now, what they didn't do some people is think well, actually, at that point, that child wasn't ready for that restorative conversation. So there was a lot of modelling around that. Because if a child was angry, it was no good doing a restorative conversation because they weren't ready. So it was, are you ready to have this conversation? Can we do this? Now, as senior leaders, we were out on the playground at lunchtime break times. So we were there and we were doing those conversations. If we were called to lessons, we do exactly the same. But that became an issue because some staff would still call for us to do this. So it was then that we said, Right, okay, we've got so far, and we've done really well up to their staff were taken on board. And actually it was working really well. But we're still going in particular people sending for us to go and solve the problem. So we kind of said, Right, okay, we've got to be a bit firmer here. We've got to say, right, have you had this conversation? So we looked at our behaviour policies while at that point, because it didn't reflect the restorative approach. We said, right, what have we got to put in here that staff can follow this and know that's the process, the children need to know that the conversation is going to happen? It might not happen then. But it's going to happen. It doesn't take me as a senior leader coming in, because I have no idea what's going on in that lesson. staff were a bit funny about it, they had a bit of an issue, they were saying so we can't call anybody if there's an issue. We said no, you can call someone, but what you've got to do is try and discuss with the children what's happened. And if they issues with you, you need to have that conversation as it's not always between children, you know, the staff get harmed if the lessons disrupted and the children needed to know when harm isn't just physical, it can be a disruption of a lesson, it can be, you know, shouting out those types of things that you want to talk to children about. So the children started to understand that harm wasn't physical, it could be anything, really. So we put the behaviour policy that took about seven or eight months to get into it that we decided that actually there was a gap there that we needed to fill. And then because it was a pilot, we'd had like a baseline. And then at the end of the year, we looked at where we were, and we did say that things had improved. But there was still little pockets that needed ironing out as you would with anything coming in now. But we had seen a change in the children had seemed to change as well. So they'd recognise that staff actually were talking to them listening to them, they were actually given a chance to share their views and say what had gone on and one of the things that turned it around for me was they weren't using this, which staff thought they were they weren't using this to get out of lessons because what we'd put in there was okay, this conversation might not happen now. But it will happen. So if I'm teaching, I can't do this conversation, but at a time, that's good for both of us, we will do it. So we've gone down that path with them. We also went down the route of that we didn't raise voices. It was a conversation because if you're having a conversation with somebody, you don't get crossed with them and if you're calm, the children will stay calm as well. So we got to that point then we're still working on But now we're five, six years down the line. And we're still working on it now because we see things that we think, Oh, actually, we need to tweak it. The journey we've been on is massive. You know, when you think about the change that we've had,
Emma Shackleton 10:11
And like you say, sometimes it is nice to stop and do that. Because when you're on that treadmill, you don't always see how far you've come as a school. Do you feel like it's an ever evolving process, and you do need to keep revisiting and keep checking back that everybody's on the same page.
Simon Currigan 10:27
And that was Janine Dodds talking about introducing restorative conversation successfully. In a real world school, Janine had loads of practical experience and insights to share. So if you want to know more, head back to Episode 22, and I'll put a direct link in the episode description. It's definitely worth a listen. And that is all we've got time for on today's essentials episode. If you've enjoyed listening today, do please remember to rate and review us it takes 30 seconds and when you leave a review, it prompts the algorithm to recommend school behaviour secrets to other listeners. And that helps us grow the podcast and reach over teachers, school leaders, and parents. And while you've got your podcast app open, please do remember to hit subscribe so you never miss another episode. Thanks for listening today and I look forward to seeing you next time on school behaviour.
(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)