One of my all-time heroes is John Giles, the former Irish footballer, manager and pundit. His playing career was a little before my time so I don't have any memories of him as a player but I watched his TV analysis from the 80's up until his (unfair and prematurely forced but I'm not bitter and it's just my opinion) retirement from our screens a few years ago (l'm a big fan as you can tell). There's a lot I admire about him. There's his honesty, level of knowledge about the game and complete lack of ego for starters. However the thing I admire the most is his ability to answer questions about football by not just focusing on the issue at hand but rather by also revealing his core values, beliefs and philosophy. Invariably he'd be asked a question about such-and-such a player who might have done something wrong off the pitch and the interviewer would suggest that he (and all) players are being paid too much. The "obvious" answer is to just agree but John will remind us that, in his day, there was a 50 pound a week wage cap and players were effectively at the mercy of the club as they couldn't leave without permission. (He'll still say the player was an eejit too). Or maybe, the question would relate to a manager's poor performance of late and should he face the sack? Again I'll be thinking "of course" but he'll point out that managers at that club are no longer in control of picking the players they want. It's the directors that do it and it's the system, not necessarily the manager that needs to change. He basically sees the bigger picture all the time.
The point I'm making here (and apologies to non-sports fans if you think this is just about football - it isn't) is that there are universal truths at play in everything we do, be it football, business, education, parenting or whatever else you care to talk about. John Giles has figured out the truths as they apply to football and, as such, any question can be boiled down to the appropriate one or two. We work and teach and live with the truths of restorative practice as our guide - and the greatest one we have is the goal to work WITH people rather than do TO or FOR people. This is our road-map, our framework to view the world and it can help us deal with such diverse things as ineffective foreign aid, unsuccessful international peace treaties and unruly children, all of which I noticed at play in different places in the last week
Firstly there was a Ted-talk I saw from David Damberger about the failings of Non-Government Organisations (and not from the fraud or waste perspective I thought it would be). In his talk he gives the example of a water project the Canadian government funded in Malawi a few years back. When his colleague came to inspect the project recently he discovered more than 60% of the taps no longer worked. The reason? There had been no plan to teach the locals how to maintain the system for when it would invariably spring leaks. They (the locals) tried their best when it started to break down but they just did not have the skills nor the parts needed. A clear case of doing something FOR people as opposed to WITH them. This would be bad on it's own except, later in the talk, his colleague discovered another broken tap not even connected to the system. When he asked what this was, he was told it was from the American funded project from 10 years earlier that started to break down about 18 months after being installed. Unbelievable. I'd like to think no-one with even a passing knowledge of RP would have allowed this to happen. We believe in working WITH people.
As for the Middle-East peace plan last week that happened without the engagement of the Palestinians? Words fail. A piece of advise to any would-be negotiators here. Include all participants in the future. You're more likely to get a result. Work WITH.
Finally, and this is not the first time I'm making this point, you get further by working WITH children too. It's not always easy to take the time to do this, especially when it's 9 o'clock at night and they should be settled in bed and two of them are kicking off (again) AND your favourite program is starting on the telly (I know some of you can empathise here). Option A, i.e. the shout (roar), might work in the short term but it only stores up more trouble down the road and leaves you feeling guilty afterwards. The full six questions is possibly overkill given the time of the night (and the fact you'll miss half your program). But even just asking the last question (what do you think needs to happen here?) gives people a chance to solve things for themselves and sometimes (thankfully this time too) they did. One child suggested saying sorry, thereby totally disarming the other, who was probably ready for a full 12 rounds. Now this one was then able to say sorry themselves. A little group hug later and everything was sorted (or at least until the next bust up). It won't work that smoothly every time but as a famous golfer once answered when asked was he lucky on a certain day, "the harder I practice, the luckier I get".
We started with John Giles so it's only appropriate that we finish with him and one of his quotes "Great teams always have a plan B. Look at Barcelona. Their plan B is to stick to plan A". There is no alternative to working WITH people. You might get a quick result here and there by doing things TO or FOR. And, let's face it, you will take the shortcut now and again - it's not about being perfect. But, in the long term, you save more time and effort by facing the issues upfront. The long way is actually the short way.
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 others to benefit from these thoughts (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.