By: Anne-Marie McDonald

American teacher Stephanie Beer, right, was in Whanganui recently to learn about restorative practices. She was hosted by Whanganui Girls’ College deputy principal Nita Pond, left. Photo / Stuart Munro

“The high school that I teach at has been doing restorative practices for about three years, and I became really interested in them.”

Ms Beer said she started doing research into restorative practices – and New Zealand and Australia kept coming up.

“I knew that schools here had been doing restorative practices much longer than in the United States. Whanganui came up very early in my research as a restorative city – so I was very keen to come here.”

So Ms Beer applied to the Fund For Teachers, which provides finances for teachers who wish to do their own professional development. She received funding for a month-long trip to Australia and New Zealand, seeing restorative practices at work.

She was in Whanganui for two days, and was hosted by Whanganui Girls’ College deputy principal Nita Pond. She spent time at Whanganui Girls’ College and Whanganui High School, talking with teachers and students about how restorative practices work in their school.

Ms Beer also met members of the Whanganui Restorative Practices Trust.

Restorative practices is a way of dealing with conflict that, in Ms Beer’s words, “separates the deed from the person”.

“It’s about respectful behaviour. When conflicts happen in those relationships it’s not about punitive punishment, it’s about finding a solution that works for both parties.”

Ms Beer said offenders were not let off lightly, as they were required to own up to their mistakes.

“Sometimes, when there are serious incidents, a family may be called in to take part.”

Ms Beer said she had learned a lot from her whirlwind tour of New Zealand and Australia, and she hopes to take many ideas back to her own school.

“Schools in all three countries face a lot of similar issues, although there are many differences as well. It’s been great to hear from people who have been involved with restorative practices for many years.”

Whanganui Girls’ College principal Tania King said adopting restorative practices had had a huge impact on her school in the past six years.

“At first I thought it was a bit fluffy, but then I saw it in practice and realised how valuable it was.”

Mrs King said the school had seen a noticeable decrease in suspensions and stand-downs.

In 2008 the school had 23 suspensions and 13 stand-downs. In 2016 those had dropped to eight and three respectively.

Source: Wanganui Chronicle


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