What's the biggest benefit that RP can bring to a school or organisation? Or, from the other end of the scale, what's the biggest challenge most people face in bringing RP into a school or organisation? These are two of the main questions I deal with daily, whether I'm directly asked them or not. And, seeing as I'm coming up to nearly a year in the job, I've been reflecting on the top answers for each I've encountered - hence the title of this week's blog (apologies to any music lovers by the way who thought there might be a music slant this week). Having supported over 20 schools and other organisations in some shape or form, I've compiled the top three challenges and benefits I've witnessed so far. This is not based on any formal surveys, just informal feedback and my own intuition and experience to-date. We'll start with the challenges.
Top 3 Challenges:
No. 3 - The Language feels "funny"
Not as in funny, haha, but many people find the language (or the questions) difficult to make their own. I've touched on this in previous blogs (Practice Makes Perfect) and will do so again in the future but this is a normal stage to go through. If you were to start stirring your tea with the other hand after 20 or 30 years, you'd struggle with that too for a time. The clue here is the name, i.e. restorative practices. We need to practice this stuff. Trust me, I've tried looking for the shortcut in this, but there is none. The long way is the short way, and it just takes time. And Patience.
No. 2 Time
Ironic I know. It just takes time, and yet time is one of the hardest things to find. This is true both on an individual level, where we have a million things to do, and at an organisational level, where we have a million things to do. We thus have a readymade excuse to roll out if we don't see this RP thing through (and I'm not going to judge anyone here if that happens). It's just hard to make that time. But, where there's a will, there's a way. And a small, achievable step, is always better than a big, unachievable one. And there are people to ask for help (I'm one of them by the way).
No. 1 Challenging each other
This is really the one I hear everywhere. Which, in a way, is almost reassuring. Everyone worries about how to "challenge" their colleagues (even the word we use sets it up as a negative). "I've no trouble doing it with the kids, but I'm no good with colleagues" could be the mantra for nearly all 20 organisations I've met. Why is this reassuring? Well, for a start, it tells me people value and need good relationships with their colleagues, as well as respect and support. We're afraid of losing this if we go back to someone with an issue or problem. So, for me, the starting point is actually positive. At the same time, this is such a huge one, I think I need to come back to it properly next week.
Top 3 Benefits:
No. 3 - Fun
And yes, fun as in fun, haha. This most under-estimated human need is actually the easiest and quickest one to work on, and the the one that will bring the most immediate gain. I'm not saying it will answer all your problems but many centres report having fun for the first time in years, and getting to know their colleagues better. Why do kids get all the market in fun and games? We all need it, no matter what the age. So, next time, the staff meeting is flagging, get them doing jumping jacks, bursting balloons, or whatever gets life back into the room. Fun is a human need.
No. 2 - Hope
Another big one. People do amazing work every day all over Limerick. But they also face many challenges and it gets tough at times. But, consistently, people report RP as bringing hope to their school or service. It doesn't take away from anything they've been using already, but rather adds to that metaphorical "tool box". And to quote Andy Dufresne from the Shawshank Redemption: Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.
No.1 Better Relationships
This is what it's all about at the end of the day. I've heard hundreds of often small examples of people, thinking before they speak, asking questions in a different way, when they make mistakes going back to the person involved, "challenging" themselves to "challenge" others, as well partaking in all the aforementioned fun and relationship-building. All these small things (and are they actually small at all?) add up. They add up quite a lot. I've heard it, I've seen, now I'm sharing it.
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.