Peace River Elementary Promotes Restorative Practices
The mere mention of meeting with the Dean of students may make some adults think back to childhood memories of consequences for behavior that include everything up to suspension out of school, but it means something different at Peace River Elementary. Many of our students seek out Mrs. Rachel Larrison in hopes to share that they have received a “Pawsitive Referral”, acknowledgement for having great character and carrying out positive actions that may result in being chosen to participate in “Donuts with the Dean”. The addition of the Dean position at the school is one of several steps that we are taking to support our students and families to ensure academic success and social emotional wellness. School wide efforts focus on creating a caring community where students can acknowledge when they have made a mistake, take responsibility for their actions, and learn about how those actions affect others, giving them the tools to prevent it from happening again and teaching them that every individual is important to the whole.
Collaborative discussions with the school staff over the past year led to the decision that student behavior needed to be addressed in a different and unique way. Peace River, like most schools, ascribes to the idea of positive behavior support, focusing on rewarding and promoting those positive behaviors that are desired. Students can receive their Pawsitive Referral from any staff member and be acknowledged on the school news program. Recently, the school celebrated students that had completed the trimester without any major behavioral incidents at the Fall Ball event, a time of socialization and dancing with peers and staff. Students that did not attend the event had the opportunity to meet with the school Dean and Mrs. Erin Taylor, another leader in restorative practices, to discuss how to make better choices that would lead to their success.
In a restorative session, the student typically meets with the facilitator and others that may have been impacted by their behavior, such as classroom or grade level peers and teachers or support staff, in groups called “circles”. The circle allows participants to share their perspectives on the incident or behavior and provides opportunities for sharing feelings, offering apologies, extending forgiveness, and ensuring the restoration of relationships. They focus on questions like, “what happened?, what part did you play?, what do we need to do to make it right?, who else was effected by it?, how were you effected by what you did?, and how can you repair the harm that was caused?”. The implementation of these Restorative Circles has led to a significant decrease in the number of out of school suspensions, which can greatly affect academic success due to loss of access to instructional time. The opportunity to participate in the circles teaches students that everyone makes mistakes and emphasizes the importance of thinking about how our actions affect others before we carry them out. Teachers and parents are happy to have the students remain in school and receive instruction in social emotional awareness, ultimately resulting in the growth and development of our children to become productive, caring world citizens.
Peace River Elementary is purposeful in engaging in initiatives that acknowledge the whole child’s well-being and believes that participating in restorative practices is essential to ensuring student success. It is our hope that these new efforts will strengthen our teaching and learning community relationships and assure our families that we truly are “a place of learning and leadership where every person is proud to be a Panther”.