Repairing Relationships Through Restorative Practice

Learning Landscape Thursday, 21 Mar 2024

Schools must approach poor student choices and poor behaviour from the lens of, ‘How can I help you?’ rather than, ‘How can I punish you? … If someone can’t read, we teach. If someone can’t add, we teach. If someone doesn’t behave, we need to teach, not just punish.

— Justine Tarte

At Living Faith, we’re committed to developing a safe and supportive school community through a whole-school approach that is aligned to our school’s Mission and Vision Statement, School Values and to Lutheran Education Australia’s (LEA) ethos and values. We adopt a whole-of-school, educative approach when things go wrong so that all members of the school community feel safe and accept responsibility for developing and sustaining a safe and supportive environment.

Our endeavour is always to restore relationships and at Living Faith, we use Restorative Practices based on biblical principles to help create a safe, fair, harmonious and productive learning environment. We also employ Restorative Practices to settle differences, resolve issues and restore relationships whilst also meeting the requirements of the law of the land. Parents are asked to support a ‘restorative pedagogy’ that builds a school culture that is fair, safe, and encourages effective learning. 

Restorative Practices is a philosophy and continuum of processes based on the premise that repairing harm done to people and relationships is a very effective way to resolve conflict. A core belief is that the wrongdoings and misbehaviours that bring disruptions to classrooms and playgrounds, and the hurtful behaviours that are so often associated with conflict, are primarily not just ‘breaking rules’, but actually result in harm to individuals, groups and the whole school community.

In this approach to behaviour development, the term ‘restorative’ is used to stress that when a student misbehaves, restoring relationships, repairing harm and learning perspective taking and social responsibility, is more important and effective than simply delivering punishment for their misbehaviour. Restorative practices can include:

● Circle time (and conference circles) in which students sit in a circle and, using a structured format, discuss and problem solve an issue that has affected the whole class or specific members of the class;
● The ‘restorative interview’ where the teacher uses an incident of misbehaviour as an educative opportunity for teaching empathy, consequential thinking and the importance of making amends in order to repair harm and relationships;
● The more formal Restorative Conference that is used with more serious or ongoing misbehaviour and usually involves senior staff.

Below are some restorative practice questions used when adopting this approach with students involved. These questions help unpack the incident and build repair.

Restorative Practice Questions

Chelsea Formosa
Director of Junior Primary