“We need to rethink the way we treat our students,” Lisbet said. “Too often we tell our students they’re bad to make them feel ashamed of their behaviour. We need to learn to separate the doer from the deed.”
Separating the doer from the deed is a basic principle that we teach as part of the Restorative Practice framework. Lisbet’s response indicated that she understood the principle. Perhaps more importantly, she was able to be honest about her school’s way of doing things and, without defence or justification, state the need for change. It was an “ah ha” moment for her and for others when she recognized her current leadership style and began to reconsider the impact of that style on students.
Such open and honest responses were common during the training that Diane Stronks, Executive Director of Edifide and I (Anne Martin, Shalem’s Director of Restorative Practices), led in Santo Domingo in January 2016. We trained 29 participants: principals, school psychologists and teachers as part of the EduDeo program Walking Together. This training was given in Spanish.
EduDeo partners with COCREF (Colegios Cristianos Reformados), a nationally run community of Christian
schools that began in 1981 in an effort to reach the most neglected children in the Dominican Republic.
COCREF consists of 16 schools, five of which have high schools. The schools serve 3700 students and employ 210 people within the Dominican Republic. COCREF focuses on reaching children in poverty-stricken areas. Many of its schools are in the bateyes, serving the Haitian immigrants.
According to participant evaluations, highlights of the training included:
- The relevance of the subject
- The scenarios that allowed participants to facilitate restorative meetings, which gave them the opportunity to explore the implications of this role
- The circles at the beginning and ending of each day
- Implementation plans that could be created by participant schools
- Application of restorative practices by the participants to other areas of their lives
Something I learned: Dominicans tend to be high-energy people who love to laugh and talk. Adjusting to the exuberance of the participants and finding light-hearted ways to resume after a break helped us develop as a community. Talking about more serious situations became easier when we worked through our own small glitches successfully.
Not long after we returned from Santo Domingo, COCREF coordinator Guillermo Yan Alfonso sent us photos of Augustina Campusano of San Pablo, doing a check-in with her grade 7-8 class.
I also received a call from a participant who had been asked to facilitate a restorative process involving two teenage girls who got into a fistfight. The girls, their mothers, a couple of teachers, students and witnesses to the incident all took part. The participant and I went through the process ahead of time, reviewing what he needed to do to help those in conflict through the situation. The circle was a success!
It was an honour and a pleasure to be part of the EduDEO initiative and work with COCREF as together we walked together understanding what it means to be human and create healthy communities.
Anne Martin is the Director of Restorative Practices with Shalem Mental Health Network