We all know the answer to this one, one bite at a time, right? Well, yes and no. In reality any big undertaking we embark on (and I include bringing RP into your school or work setting) generally goes like this. We start in a blaze of glory. That first elephant steak is divine. We've never had anything quite like it. It's different to any other steak we've had up to now, tastes juicy and exotic almost. We scoff it down and and can't wait for more and more. Then, after a while, we get accustomed to it and, while it still tastes good, it doesn't have that "new" flavour we enjoyed so much at the start. Crucially, we then do something that's key. We look at the amount of elephant steak left yet to eat. Now the (uncomfortable) thoughts of having to eat such a large amount probably means there's a good chance we'll lose focus and never get to the end of it. This is also what happens a lot when you try to get RP up and running in your school, centre or club (or even in your own life). I mean, seriously, there's a lot to this RP thing. You've got RP language, RP questions, the FRESH principals, mini-conferences, circles, innate affects, Shame, fair process, full conferences, problem solving circles, need I go on? It's a lot to take in. I meet a lot of people on my travels and I often hear something along these lines: "Oh yeah, a bunch of us got trained up a few years back and we went great for a while. Then I don't know what happened, it just kind of drifted away". Or, "I did the initial training and loved it. But I was on my own and didn't really know how to keep it up". What happened in both these cases was people tried to eat the elephant too fast and got indigestion after a while, i.e. they got put off by the scale of the task ahead of them. They possibly got a little frustrated at the (perceived) lack of progress. Then our old friend Shame set in. And we all know what happens when Shame comes to town (I like to give it the capital letter treatment)? We hit for the metaphorical hills and give up, maybe blaming a few people on the way to make us feel a little better. "Management never backed us on this" is usually a good line.
So, exactly how are you meant to eat an elephant? Well, it's still one bite at a time. But I'll let Jeff Muir explain the secret in this brilliant YouTube clip I came across lately (just click on the link here). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZpAYmUpx44 The key, if you've seen the clip is to stop and savour each bite. Take a small piece to start (maybe RP language), try it out and then celebrate the fact you tried it out. You did something that is going to make you a better teacher, parent, social care or youth worker. Pat yourself on the back, tell someone about it, allow yourself to feel that good feeling. The motion you've taken will lead to further e-motion in time. You are now on the road to success. If you do have some small degree of success (and you will), even better. Now you can really celebrate it. Bring it to a staff meeting or morning circle. Write it into your reports. Tell the mums or dads at the school gates what you did. We are quick to beat ourselves up when we fail to act. We should be equally quick to praise ourselves when we do act. I have been focusing almost exclusively on getting circles up and running in schools since Christmas and trying to understand and facilitate them better at the same time. And I am grateful for each and every opportunity to increase my learning. I'm not letting the other aspects of RP that I'm not fully proficient in (and there are many) worry me. Those "bites" will come in time. Eating an Elephant can be a terrific experience. See it that way and it will be so.
That's Restorative Practice
My name is Joe Power and I am the RP development officer for Limerick. I thought I would write about my experiences in developing my own understanding of RP, as well as in trying to spread it across Limerick. The reason for this is that I find that both my own and other people's experiences are remarkably similar and there could well be some opportunity for other's to benefit from these thoughts (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it.