Ok, maybe not the most "restorative" language to start with, i.e. "busting", but as good a way as any to dive right in. No chit-chat here. We're in full myth demolition mode today.
RP Myth 1 - You Have To Sound Like a Saint (or a Zealot)
No you don't. Believe it or not you still get to be you, just maybe a slightly better version of you. Here's the thing. We're all creatures of habit. Throughout our lives we've developed patterns of thinking and talking and, for the most part, we don't give too much thought to it. If you've done some RP training you now know you have the opportunity to change a few things. Adam Voigt goes out of his way to make the change sound easy. I love the way he explains restorative language, i.e. "say what you were going to say, but just chuck in a feeling" (he's Australian by the way in case you're wondering). Marshall Rosenberg goes a little further, taking the traditional "I" statement and putting it on proverbial steroids. Now it's a case of stating an observation, followed by a feeling, a need and a request. You what? Either one probably sounds like a bit of an ask when you first hear it, especially when you have a lifetime of patterned repetition behind you. Furthermore, it can give the impression that, when coupled with embracing a "restorative ethos" you have to sound a bit Mother Teresa-like. Allow me to dispel that myth. It's ok to say "bust". It's ok to say "I'm bloody angry". It's ok to be yourself. The language side of RP is about small tweaks, and making the language fit your style as opposed to you adapting yourself to the language (an important distinction). Again, small changes. Personally, I have banished "always", "never" and the "why" question from my vocabulary. They're gone, on the endangered species list in my mind, only to be ever read in blogs like this.
RP Myth 2 - It'll Solve All Your Problems (aka, your kids/colleagues will behave)
Not it won't. This is the one myth that we ourselves sometimes perpetuate, albeit unintentionally, so it's good to own it from the start (if for no other reason than that people will realise it soon enough anyway). This is what I've noticed. A school or organisation is having a problem somewhere. Maybe suspension levels are too high, maybe conflict amongst staff is affecting performance and now the "shiny" white knight that is RP comes into town. The majority of the locals are thrilled, assuming that this will solve all their problems. The problem is some of the locals are thinking "where were you when we needed you?" and line up RP as a target. The other problem is that it's actually up to the people themselves to contribute to solving their problems. RP will help, IF you understand it and if you start putting it into practice. It's a bit like those reminders with nicotine gum products to stop smoking - it "requires willpower" (i.e. effort). There's no magic pill, silver bullet, or whatever analogy you chose to use. There's no shortcut (believe me I've looked). In that sense, one of the best things we can do with RP is to just be realistic and ground people and their expectations early on. Sounds a bit boring I know but what happens if we allow RP to be compared to some sort of perfection? That's right, we get frustrated. At the end of the day RP just needs to be better than the alternative (btw the good news is that it is). 'Progress not perfection' is what we ought to be aiming for.
RP Myth 3 - It takes too much time
No (but you have a point). How long did it take you to learn to read and write? And, when you could read and write, think about how long it took to learn to read and write a second language. How long does it take to play a sport, learn an instrument or anything else worthwhile? Probably quite a while I imagine. RP is the same. Yes, I could start making effective changes from day 1, but I'd say it was two years before I began to feel really comfortable with the complete set. That said, I am still working on it all the time. So, yes, in that sense it takes time. But, when you get the hang of it it saves you so much time. It saves you having to repeat yourself as much, from having to deal with as many problems, from having to correct your own mistakes as much. It also just builds better relationships quicker. As the saying goes, though, "you gotta speculate to accumulate" and RP is like that. Once you put in that time at the start, you can then employ a one or two second language change to avoid a row, or a two minute check-in circle that changes the atmosphere in the class or staff meeting, or the fair process of engagement with people at the start of the year that cuts later confusion and heartache in half.
RP Myth 4 - It's too soft
No (but you have a point - sometimes). It's not easy to reflect on your mistakes. Sometimes it's easier to blame someone else and minimise your own behaviour. It's not easy to face a difficult conversation and tell someone how you feel. Sometimes it's easier to pretend everything is alright and hope the problem goes away. It's not easy to take on a new approach, new questions, new circle practices and risk stepping out of our comfort zone. Sometimes it's easier to stick with the tried and trusted even if, deep down, we know it's not the best way and some people will be affected by it. Restorative practice soft? I don't think so. Maybe it can look soft from the outside if you haven't done the work. Maybe it looks soft if you take that shortcut. From the inside, boy, it doesn't get any tougher than changing yourself, owing and verbalising your feelings and unmet needs. Or looking at your mistakes and showing vulnerability. Soft? Tell me, how much do you really know about RP?
So that's it. Four myths that you'll hear and have to address at some point. Four myths that, to some extent, have elements of truth and are therefore important to acknowledge. But, at the end of day, four myths.
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/RJ, as well as in trying to spread it across Limerick (and beyond). 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.