From Conflict to Connection - The Transformative Power of Restorative Practice In Schools With Sara Hagel

From Conflict to Connection - The Transformative Power of Restorative Practice In Schools With Sara Hagel

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Curious about the outcomes of effective restorative practice in schools?

Join us as Sara Hagel, a specialist in restorative approaches, shares real-life success stories. In this episode, we discuss the positive changes in students' emotional intelligence and relationships when restorative practice is done well. Get ready for inspiring examples and tangible results.

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Show notes / transcription

Simon Currigan  0:00  

Does it feel like the children in your class are constantly coming to you to resolve conflicts and settle their arguments for them? Do you need a new approach to empower students to become more independent in managing their relationships? Well, on today's School Behaviour Secrets, we have the answer for you. 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, whole 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 will get to hear their latest evidence based strategies before anyone else. This is the School Behaviour Secrets podcast.

....So that leads us nicely on to restorative practice for listeners that have not come across restorative practice before. How does it differ from other approaches to resolving conflicts between students?

Sara Hagel  1:49  

As a society, our main model for addressing wrongdoing or conflict is for some kind of an authority figure to find out who broke what law we would say in society, and then you have a suitable consequence punishment usually for that. And schools, perhaps unsurprisingly, have in many instances adopted a similar approach. So you are looking to see what school rule maybe has been broken and who broke it, and then what the consequence for that is some sort of sanction. So a restorative approach differs from that. I should say restorative approaches are not new. They are originating from traditional societies, particularly the Maori in New Zealand, where a lot of restorative work originated. But restorative practice asks different questions. So instead of asking what rule was broken, it asks what's happened? Who did it affect? And what do those people need to happen in order to move forward to repair any harm or to resolve any conflict. And restorative likes to do things with people so that together, that people look at what's happened and who's affected and what's needed to repair it,

Simon Currigan  3:02  

 It sounds like you're sort of teaching the children a process that they can go through, that they can implement themselves more independently, and not be reliant on an adult in future. 

Sara Hagel  3:12  

A lot of times, that's what happens, even if it's not the set outcome, because children learn and they do start to do it for themselves. And a large part of this program is around building those skills of emotional intelligence in particular, that will support the process working. So if you just come in and try and do a restorative approach with children and young people haven't got that support. It's not impossible, we've seen it work. But it's, it's a lot trickier, because there isn't that grounding in understanding their own emotions, and being able to trace them back to their behaviours.

Simon Currigan  3:46  

What would you say are the basics, the kind of emotional foundations that a student needs before they can engage fully in this kind of process? 

Sara Hagel  3:54  

Well, I wouldn't say they need it, but that it supports it because this process is done in Youth Offending, for example, quite widely, where the young people may not have any of these bases and is successful. But in order to make it flow more easily in a school where time is short, and you need to be able to resolve things and move on the supports are a bit less. But like I was saying what the skills for peace are the ability to emotionally regulate to understand your emotions, to understand other people's emotions, and to be able to talk about them. And of course, that crucial human ability to empathize with others and their experience.

Simon Currigan  4:31  

When restorative practice is done, well, what are the outcomes? What kind of changes do you see in the kids that you work with? 

Sara Hagel  4:39  

A lot of the change is around this emotional intelligence and empathy. So I thought one way to talk about this would be to give some examples from schools where we've been working alongside them to embed this. There's the story of Charlie, we'll call him who came up very worked up from lunchtime one day it was very distressed about out what had happened and this adult in the school was saying Charlie's anything you want to talk about? So he wanted to talk about an issue that did happen between him and two other people around their friendship. And I said, Do you want me to help out with this? And he said, No, leave it with me, I think I can work it out. And he said, the adult said, Tell me what you're going to do? Well, I'm going to have my sandwich, I'm going to sit with other person, I'm going to say, I'm really sorry about what I said. I didn't mean I want to try and sort it out. So the adult chat with Charlie at the end of the lunch break and asked how it went, and you've got the thumbs up, and the smile. And the thing about that is, what you mentioned before is that he'd done it for himself. He thought about his behaviour, he'd thought about how important the friendship was to him, and he could stand back and reflect on it, and then go back and fix the problem. It sounds very empowering. At its best, I think it can be very empowering, it's lovely to see these changes. And the thing we get reflected better lot is greater confidence in the young people. So a lot of that sort of work is done in a circle. So the young people become increasingly confident to participate, to talk about their emotions to expand their emotional vocabulary. When I'm angry, I get it in my tummy, I feel kind of hungry, which I think is quite a nice way to talk about anger. When I'm happy, I scream when I'm scared, I scream and when I'm angry, I scream, you can sort of see the point that they're used to talking about how they're feeling and trying to explain it to other people. 

Simon Currigan  6:23  

There's an underlying truth there isn't that that's how he experiences it. Yeah. 

Sara Hagel  6:27  

That's the honesty of that. And then on the sort of hard data side, we do find that our data varies from school to school. But we do have evidence that exclusions gone down from one school from the term before we started to the end of the year when we ended exclusions went from five to one. But I do have to say that lower level incidents don't. And that's partly because we're not trying to get rid of conflict. Conflict is actually a good thing. Conflict just means that we don't all think and feel the same way. And as one child put it, conflict isn't always bad as people, we're all different. And they think and feel different things. And it would be boring if we were all the same. So the conflicts continue, but they don't escalate in the same way.

Simon Currigan  7:10  

So that's interesting. So the conflict doesn't go away, but the nature of the conflict becomes less intense. 

Sara Hagel  7:16  

Yes, I think they escalate less into physicality or into needing to be referred upwards, if you like, but the conflicts remain.

Simon Currigan  7:24  

Do you see that then affects the relationships between the students and the adults in the school?

Sara Hagel  7:30  

Yes, you could say there's more humanity in the school people treat each other more like human beings rather than as adults and students or teachers and students.

Simon Currigan  7:41  

So you've done a lot of work with schools on restorative practice for you What's the secret to making this approach work in schools?

Sara Hagel  7:49  

It works best when it's really part of the school ethos and culture. So that means it's a long term project, it's not a quick fix, you would see proactive learning around the skills that we talked about, you'd see an increase or an emphasis on social and emotional learning, you'd see a lot of emphasis being placed on relationships in the school. Some schools we worked with have renamed their behaviour policies to relationship policies.

Simon Currigan  8:17  

And that was Sara Hagel, talking about the positive impact restorative practice can have in developing children's confidence and independence in managing relationships with others. If you'd like to know more about the key steps involved in restorative conversations, then head all the way back to Episode Four. I'll put a direct link in the episode description. And I'll also give you a link to the peacemakers website too. If you've enjoyed listening today, please remember to rate and review us. It takes just 30 seconds and when you do, it prompts the algorithm to recommend School Behaviour Secrets to other listeners, and that helps us grow the podcast and reach other teachers, school leaders and parents. And while you've got that podcast app open, please 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 Secrets.

(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)