The beauty of living in a small community is that you have the opportunity to get to know your neighbor and create strong connections. Schools are very much the same way. Building strong relationships is key to building strong learning communities and improving student learning. Throughout the course of time, all relationships have their ups and downs whether it is student to student, student to teacher, or parent and school. We need to be intentional in nurturing and developing those relationships. A proven way to build bridges and restore community is the use of what is called restorative practices. Oak Manor staff members use restorative practices to help repair relationships and make a difference for our students.
Restorative practices are a way to resolve conflict and prevent harm. These practices enable those who have been harmed to convey the impact of the harm to those responsible, and for those responsible to acknowledge this impact and take steps to make things right. Restorative practices promote inclusiveness, relationship-building and problem-solving, through such restorative methods as circles for teaching and conflict resolution, to conferences that bring victims, offenders, and their supporters together to address wrongdoing. Instead of punishment, students are encouraged to reflect and take responsibility for their actions and come up with plans to repair harm.
Case studies and evaluations conducted in schools worldwide indicate that restorative practices improve relationships among students and teachers, reduce disciplinary problems, and build community. Dr. Paul McCold, researcher and founding faculty member of the International Institute for Restorative Practices, has found that restorative practices transform schools’ academic and social culture. Dr. McCold said, “We know that the sense of belonging and pride in school is related to academic performance and dropout rates, and dropout rates are related to involvement in the criminal justice system and more at-risk behavior. The more involvement in school and positive peer groups, the less likely students are to engage in risky behavior.”
Together as a learning community, we hope to continue to nurture many positive relationships at school and in our community. We are committed to a learning culture founded on relationships, collaboration, and inclusion. We want to provide a positive and safe environment for all of our students so they can focus on learning. When our students feel honored and safe at school they will perform better academically, behave better, and be stronger members of our community.
Great educational relationships require multiple partners, and if more people actively engage with students, our community will be healthier. We very much want to engage parents and our community as partners, so I would like to take this opportunity to invite parents and community members to get involved. Please volunteer in any way possible at local schools because your involvement can make a big difference in the lives of our students. If you would like to volunteer at Oak Manor Elementary, please call us at 707-472-5180.