There are many ways to implement restorative practices at schools. The cost of training every person in a district can be prohibitive. When I created the restorative practices in schools program for a large school district in Modesto, CA, I developed a site team system that includes administrators, certificated staff, classified staff. It is unusual to include classified staff in most district-wide initiatives. But if restorative practices are to be implemented school wide, the classified staff must be included because they have their own unique sphere of influence. The training model involves training seven to nine team members from each school site for at least three years.
The site teams are under the leadership of an administrator who works alongside the trainers and consultants and the site team members. At the elementary level, this person is typically the vice principal. At the secondary level, the site lead is usually an associate principal. The training and consultant’s assistance and input equips site teams towards successful implementation. Ultimately, the site team is responsible for implementation. Research says that Restorative Practices (RP) in schools takes three to five years for full implementation, but my experience over nine years is that it takes much longer.
The heart of what consultants do happens with the site leads by building a strong connection over time. As consultants get to know site team leads, they must be mindful of confidentiality. Consultants often serve a significant role as confidant to many administrators who are often isolated, struggling, fearful of being let go, and don’t know from supervisors if they’re doing a good job or not. There are many opportunities to offer reassurance and support. Sending cards of encouragement when appropriate and congratulations cards when promoted helps build these vital relationships.
Site Team Lead’s Responsibilities1
The site team lead is typically designated by the school principal. In turn, the site team lead is responsible to the selection of seven to nine members on the site team. It is vital that the administrator communicate contact information for each of the site team members to the consultant. Unfortunately, with turnover, the site team lead needs to add new site team members periodically.
Restorative practices were new in the district I work with as of the 2013-14 school year. We asked the site leads to serve as a visionary, risk taker, and encourager to the site team and model restorative practices in their daily responsibilities. Leads also promote Restorative Practices (RP) at their school, The District, and community.
School Site Data
The first year of implementation, the site lead provides data on the school site’s previous year to use as a baseline. Particularly important are demographics, attendance records, school climate surveys, student discipline, home suspensions, and expulsions (if applicable). The site leads provide data annually as soon as the district data is compiled, usually in July.
It is ideal if the site team lead coordinates a monthly meeting with the site team members. This gives the site lead opportunities to work on the site implementation plan throughout the academic year with site team members. The lead and site team members can also collect documentation from RP strategies, i.e., photos, copies of projects and presentations, outline for Restorative Conferences, letter about a student changed by RP, or any other documentation.
Site leads were asked to take 10 minutes each month during a staff meeting to allow for restorative practices training, mostly led by site team members. We encouraged site team members to use Restorative Practice Kete: Book Two Restorative Essentials2 to train their site staff. It features 28 training modules that take from 10 minutes to 60 minutes. Other training suggestions include do activities from RP trainings; ask the RP consultant to be a guest speaker; ask site team member(s) to share about how they use RP; do a Q and A session; show video clips; give updates on the site’s progress/statistics; etc.
Although the consultants tried to require the monthly training, we discovered that administrators have limited time for staff meetings and many requirements from the district that limits their ability to implement the trainings. Even though it is challenging, we still encourage it.
Also, the site leads carry a great deal of responsibility. They also experience joy as they see first-hand the differences that restorative practices can have on them, their staff, the students, and families.
- Information adapted from Positive Behavior for Learning: Book One Introduction, New Zealand Ministry of Education, Crown, 2014, pp. 13; 15. https://pb4l.tki.org.nz/content/download/304/1385/file/Restorative%20Practice%20Book%20One.pdf education.govt.nz
- Crown, 2014. education.govt.nz https://pb4l.tki.org.nz/PB4L-Restorative-Practice/Restorative-Practice-Kete-Book-Two
- Image: Leader [hang_in_there Flckr.com]