Social/Emotional Learning: Explicit skill instruction and concept integration systems that build a culture of inclusion, respect and connectedness in schools and districts.
Restorative Practice: Systems implemented to build personal connection, belonging, equity, inclusive decision-making, and problem solving in a school, district or community. The basis of restorative practice is the structured circle conference.
I recently had the privilege of attending two intensive workshops addressing Restorative Practice and Restorative Discipline. The first was led by Sherwynn and Kim Patton, the visionaries leading Life Anew, a local non-profit bringing Restorative Practice to schools and the community in Austin and Manor. The second was a statewide conference for teachers and administrators presented by the University of Texas Institute of Restorative Justice and Restorative Dialog in partnership with Life Anew.
Life Anew and the Institute are dedicated to Restorative Practice and Discipline via facilitated discussions in the restorative circle. The circle is an intentional space created to foster belonging and empathy, critical aspects of building relationships and healing harmful conflicts. The philosophies behind SEL and Restorative Practice are beginning to gain traction in educational policy-making at the state and national level—compelling data from schools implementing SEL and RP show significant reductions in disciplinary referrals and significant increases in academic achievement.
At the most recent training, I told Kim and Sherwynn that I would like to blog about the natural partnership of Social/Emotional Learning and RP/RD in the school system. I asked if Sherwynn would give me his “elevator speech” about Restorative Practice, and how he thought it relates to SEL. After we came back from lunch, he gave me the following…which is now AISD SEL Blog’s first Guest Blogger Bloffering!
The Perfect Marriage: SEL and Restorative Practices
By Sherwynn Patton
At its core, restorative practice helps students and adults connect with one another in a way that promotes the development of empathy, social support, accountability, responsibility and communication skills. All of these are important within the context of peer to peer relationships, as well as peer to adult relationships. The way this happens in restorative practice is the promotion of active listening. Typically, when we converse with others, we are either waiting for our opportunity to be heard or competing for the opportunity to get our point across. In the restorative process, we learn that everyone receives the opportunity to be heard and that listeners are most important.
This process allows us to develop the social and emotional skills we need in order to be able to develop healthy relational practices. We use the restorative circle method to create a space where people can develop socially and emotionally. It actually gives students and adults a real opportunity to measure and use their social and emotional skill development. The best way that I can describe the relationship between restorative discipline and social emotional learning is that it is a perfect marriage.
In a perfect marriage, each individual complements the other; there is mutual edification, a clear line of communication, and a shared vision. Restorative practice and SEL are the perfect marriage—both relationally-driven processes complement each other by using listening as a tool, allowing people to engage socially and discover the reciprocity in every relationship. We can then work together to establish core values that govern our interactions, resulting in mutual respect and the deepening of relationships. In short, the marriage of Social/Emotional Learning and Restorative Discipline gives birth to EMPATHY.
I am so thankful that Kim, Sherwynn and the Institute are doing this work, and that I get to learn from their great passion and expertise. I am excited that Social-Emotional Learning is in partnership with Restorative Practice on the mission to create more just, peaceful, and equitable schools and communities.