Building Relationships at School

Building Relationships at School

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3838-8.ch003
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Chapter 3 discusses the building of relationships between school community members. Additionally, students taking ownership of their actions and being responsible through the use of restorative practices is examined. As part of forging connections at school through the use of restorative practices, the importance of embracing a school community is presented, along with a discussion of family values taking shape at school through a supportive, caring, nurturing learning environment.
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Building Relationships at School

Building relationships at school involves a process much like any relationship; it takes time, effort and patience. Students, teachers, counselors, administrators and other staff members must work together to forge connections. For some individuals, building a relationship will be easier than for others. For those students who have been marginalized at school, creating a healthy relationship with peers and authority figures can be more challenging, as learning to trust people at school will be a major barrier to building relationships. Restorative practices can be helpful to staff members in creating a connection, particularly with those students who are the hardest to reach as the creation of a restorative environment conducive to student needs can bridge the gap between students and staff members (Augustine et al., 2018; Hulvershorn & Mulholland, 2018; Kehoe et al., 2018; McCluskey, 2018; Morrison, 2004; Reimer, 2018). Through the use of restorative practices, students will learn to take ownership of their actions through a process of positive and inclusive actions by peers and staff (Hulvershorn & Mulholland, 2018; Kehoe et al., 2018; McCluskey, 2018). Over time, students will learn that the responsibility of the school community is shared, and that in order for the school to function properly, school values, norms, rules, and best practices must be embraced by all school community members. Through a caring, nurturing environment based on the principles of restorative justice and social emotional learning [SEL], a school community can become a loving, stable, family environment, in which students learn to accept care and give care to others (Augustine et al., 2018; Hulvershorn & Mulholland, 2018; Kehoe et al., 2018; McCluskey, 2018).

Figure 1.


Taking Ownership And Being Responsible

Holding students accountable for their actions is not always easy, particularly for students who do not experience this level of responsibility at home and in their communities. For those schools implementing restorative practices, a common practice that can be used to help students take ownership and be responsible are the use of contracts or individual service plans. Individual service plans can serve as an agreement between the student and the school outlining their responsibility and their plan of action, as well as any consequences should the student not meet the terms of their individual service plans. At SLK Wright Academy, individual service plans are created by the student along with their parents and counselors upon arrival, then again six months later. Students describe how they intend to follow through on their plan and formulate consequences for not following through on their plan should this occur. Susan, the principal at SLK Wright Academy, said: I think the students are more invested . . . making the changes they need to make in order for their lives to be better. I think that they’re more invested when they have a say, when they have a chance to be a part of [what they are doing at SLK Wright Academy]. Every decision that is made in the school, even though staff is there and they are guiding students in the right direction, [the students] really have a big say on how this school is run. Even to what is called an individual service plan, which are their goals, so within thirty days, they sit down with their family and they come up with, okay what are the things I want to work on? I mean they are a part of everything; they are a part of making decisions on everything they do here. (5.23.13)

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