11th World Conference of the International Institute for Restorative Practices
Being part of a recent international conference on restorative practices was a rejuvenating experience for two district employees. Attendance Counsellor Shelley Steacy and Child and Youth Counsellor Shelley Steele hosted a workshop at a three day international gathering of educators, social workers, criminal justice professionals and researchers.
The 11th World Conference of the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) was held in Toronto in late October. The IIRP’s world conference relies on voluntary participation from a wide variety of individuals who want to share what they are doing and learning in the emerging field of restorative practices.
"This was an incredible experience. It was an honour to present alongside others from all around the world. This conference demonstrated to both of us that we have a lot to be proud of at Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board," remarks Shelley Steacy. "Our presentation, Lead from Where you Stand, focused on the district’s restorative practices journey from 2001 to present."
The district’s Child & Youth Counsellor Team has been promoting restorative practices since 2001 when many were first trained as facilitators. Since that time restorative practices has grown tremendously within the district and is quickly becoming the discipline model of choice in a number of schools.
"We were proud to represent our organization as a leader in Canada with regard to implementing a restorative philosophy and practice which has lead to a more inclusionary approach to discipline within our system," states Shelley Steele. "Next steps for us will be to examine ways to tie restorative practices into the district’s Growing with Character philosophy and the curriculum," she adds.
When asked about the most inspirational presentation they attended, Steacy and Steele reflected on two:
We attended a presentation by four women from the United Kingdom: the headmistress of a public school, a classroom teacher, a school-based counsellor and a centrally-based counsellor. These four professionals implemented restorative practices using a school- and community-wide approach. The classroom teacher spoke about how restorative practice is woven into the fabric of their class with each day beginning with a check-in circle. During this time the students are encouraged to talk about issues that may be interfering with their learning and are then asked to come up with strategies to resolve their concerns. The headmistress then spoke about how she would implement conferencing as a method to address discipline issues with her students. She also used the RP circle as a model for running her staff meetings where staff were encouraged to “check-in” regarding how things were going in general terms for each staff member. The two counsellors then shared examples of challenging cases where a family conferencing approach was utilized to re-engage a student who was struggling with attendance and behavioural concerns.
Equally as inspiring was the story told by Dominique Barter, a keynote speaker from Brazil. Dominique initiated a Restorative Justice Pilot Project which brought restorative practices into schools, courts, social services and prison services as well as community agencies. Dominique shared his story of a desire to bring non-violent communication to the shanty towns outside of Rio de Janeiro. He spoke about towns where they are over run with drug trafficking and violence. These towns are in the control of adolescent gangs that have become so organized and powerful that local authorities will not even attempt to address the issue as they are in fear for their own safety. His story demonstrated how a restorative approach leads to a feeling of safety for the participants and thereby allows them to express their needs. As a result of being able to express their needs they no longer feel invisible. When a person feels that they are being listened to they have less need to act out to make themselves noticed.
"These presentations demonstrated how a consistent and unified approach can effectively transform any culture into one of understanding, open communication and accountability," explains Steele.
Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board serves more than 16,700 students each day at 46 elementary and eight secondary schools. Supporting student achievement is the goal of close to 1,800 teaching and support staff who, in addition to the contributions of caring volunteers and community partners, provide the best opportunity for students to learn. The district covers a wide geographical area of 7,221 square kilometres bordered by Maynooth to the north, Deseronto to the east, Prince Edward County to the south and Quinte West to the west.
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For more information, please contact:
• Kerry Donnell, Communications Officer, 613-966-1170 or 1 800 267-4350, ext. 2354