Being “Restorative”

By Jason Johnson – Kawakawa teacher – High school

When I am asked to explain what ‘restorative practices’ actually are, I find it useful to think about what we are trying to achieve when using them. We use them when we are trying to restore relationships. At times when trust has been
broken and the relationship has become damaged.

As humans, we rely on trusting our fellow person to get on with our day. We have to be able to expect that they do not intend to harm us, or else we end up constantly vigilant. But more than that, we know that truly amazing feats are
possible when we work together, which can’t happen if we don’t trust each other.

Young people need help with relationships. We all do, sometimes. We make mistakes. We break the trust of others. Montessori taught that young people build their personality through action, by trying and doing things with their hands; experiencing their own success and failure. They also experiment with their words, sometimes with equally disastrous outcomes. It’s important that they have the freedom to make these mistakes, but also important that we address any harm that occurs as a result.

As their guides in this life, we are charged with helping them to restore the relationships that get damaged along the way. We use restorative practices to help them see that whatever impact a situation is having on them, it is having
other impacts on other people too; to help them see that until that impact or harm has been acknowledged, it hangs about in the air, continuing to erode the trust between the parties. Restorative processes keep the dignity of all
people in the foreground. They hold us accountable to others.

Perhaps most challengingly though, our young people inevitably look to adult relationships too. They notice the way that we interact in the world, and behave accordingly. It is up to us to model restorative behaviours in our daily lives.
We must try to avoid using totalising language, strive to understand the different lenses through which others see the world and be prepared to change our own views. It’s not always easy, but what part of being a parent is?