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Video Review: Building Our Community: A Film about Restorative Practices.

Building Our Community is a 15-minute video highlighting the use of restorative practices in Collingwood Primary school located in Hull, UK. Teachers, students, administrators and parents discuss the impact on the school environment and individual students of using circles and conferences.

Building our CommunityProduced by in partnership with Step4ward Ltd. & Hull Centre for Restorative Practices. 

Collingwood School, located in an area affected by acute economic and social changes, was once considered a school in crisis. High crime rates and overt racism are common experiences for students attending the school. The school struggled with issues concerning student discipline and other methods of creating a safe school environment. Restorative practices provided the mechanism for doing just that.

In this short documentary, teachers and students describe the use of circles each morning and afternoon as a way for students to check in and talk about how they are feeling that day. One staff member describes the process as helping the children to develop a vocabulary to express their emotions and learn more about taking responsibility for their behaviour.

A teacher describes how the simple change of asking “What happened?” instead of “Why?” created significant improvements in her interaction with the children. “What happened?” allows the child to speak without automatically fearing punishment, whereas “Why?” causes a defensive reaction.

Students describe circles using words such as "respect" and "safe place".

One parent described how his son had expressed a lot of anger and was getting in fights. In response to one fight, the school held a circle that involved the participants in the fight, parents and teachers. The father describes how this process allowed everyone to have a say, find a solution, and walk away with a good feeling. He also describes changes he has seen in his son’s behaviour after the circle.

Another student describes how participating in circles has helped him. and how his family now uses the process in responding to issues.

At Collingwood, restorative practices are used at every level of the school, including among staff members. Each morning they meet in a circle as well. While described as lighthearted, the circle also provides teachers an opportunity to seek input from colleagues about issues they face. One teacher explains that her fear of making mistakes has reduced as her feeling of support from her co-workers and supervisors has grown through these practices.

Another teacher describes how she feels more in control of her own emotions as she responds to students and their conflicts (with each other and with her). She feels that the students actually listen to her, and the students feel the same about her. This mutual respect has had an effect on the education environment and has resulted in  increased work output and improved quality by the students.

Building Our Community is available on DVD from the International Institute of Restorative Practices for $25.

In the UK and Europe, the video is available for £14.99 from the UK office of the International Institute of Restorative Practices.

August 2008

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