School Name: North Oyster Elementary
School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith
Inquiry Team Members:Jennifer Robinson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jacqueline Dunn: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOII (focus on core competencies, OECD learning principles, etc.)
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Career Education, Physical & Health Education
Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Restorative Practices
Scanning: We decided on restorative practices as our focus, because we were noticing challenging student behavior and were looking at ways to provide opportunities for student learning and reflection to better develop more positive school relationships and problem solving skills.
The OECD principles of learning are integral to Restorative Practices in many respects. In this approach, students are at the centre. There is a recognition that learning is social as well as a recognition that students have individual differences. Finally, it acknowledges that emotions are integral to learning. In addition, the First Peoples Principles of Learning are also integral as it recognizes learning should support the well-being of the self, the family, and the community. These principles also focus on connectedness, and on reciprocal relationships. Finally, it suggests learning involves recognizing the consequences of one’s actions. These principles of learning are a vital component of this project.
Focus: Restorative Practices were chosen as our focus, as challenging behaviour was impacting student learning, both individually and collectively. We wanted to focus on an approach that helped students develop and maintain positive relationships among community members, that would allow them to better express their feelings, and develop their own solutions to problems that arise at school, and with peers. Restorative practice allows for opportunities for students to practice communication skills, as well as to develop personal and social responsibility.
Hunch: While staff supported the idea of involving students in solving problems, staff did not have a cohesive way of doing this. Various approaches were used, but it was difficult for students to understand that issues are learning experiences and that people grow from them. When a mistake was made by students, they thought they would ‘get in trouble’. Restorative practices allow students to take responsibility for their actions, and grow from them. Nor did previous approaches address underlying issues that were influencing student behaviour.
New Professional Learning: School staff (teachers and support staff) engaged throughout the year in professional learning. During regular PLCs, staff tackled questions of implementation of restorative practices on a school-wide level. These PLC sessions were very helpful to support colleagues as we adjusted the way we approached student behaviour. Three of our school based professional development days were devoted to learning about restorative practices and a guests speakers, through the John Howard Society and the International Institute of Restorative Practices, were brought in to help better understand how restorative practices could be used effectively in the classroom. As part of this learning, staff read two book to help with this. They were: The Restorative Practices Handbook and Restorative Circles in Schools. These experiences have contributed to school-wide momentum for using this approach.
Taking Action: Since North Oyster is a dual track school, activities were done in English and French. There were many activities, and these were done in a circle with the whole class. Some of the activities that were done in classrooms this year:
• Monday morning check-ins
o What is your challenge for the week? (learning)
o What is your favourite….? (community building)
o How are you feeling? And reflecting on emotions.
• Friday afternoon check-outs
o Did you succeed in meeting your challenge for this week?
• Compliment circles – students give compliments to others that have had a positive impact at school
• Curriculum based circles
o Share projects and give informal presentations
o Practice oral French to use new verb tenses
• Classroom organization
o Classroom expectations
o Field trip expectations
o Class meetings
o Improve games
o The sun shines on..
o Qui aime –
o Pass-pass passera
Classes engaged in problem solving circles as well. Depending on the nature of the problem, these circles could include just a few students or the whole class.
• Problem Solving
o Talking out events that were problematic
o Voicing frustrations around behavior
o Finding solutions to conflict
Checking: Since we have implemented the restorative model, students are being referred to the office with far less frequency. In September, our principal was often dealing with multiple behavioural incidents simultaneously, whereas now, much of the day goes by without any office referrals. Our hypothesis is that as teachers are using the restorative model in their classrooms, more issues are being dealt with within the class community, rather than having the child sent out due to their behaviour. We believe there are also fewer issues are occurring overall within the school as a result of these practices.
Therefore, we are satisfied that we have made a difference and we believe we will continue to see increasing improvements as we continue to embed the model more deeply into our practice.
Reflections/Advice: From this inquiry, we learned that restorative practices require time as they involve a shift in school culture. It is a different way to approach problems that arise with students, and requires better communication to understand issues from the students’ perspective, as well as any underlying issues. Because it is such a shift in school culture, there are ongoing plans on how to start the school year with a restorative approach and how to effectively communicate this to students, parents, and new staff so there is an understanding of this approach by the broader community. One of the strengths of our inquiry was that all staff were involved and willing to take on this new approach. Because it is such a shift in culture, our advice would be to have consensus from staff that this is an approach that they would like to try.