We couldn’t possibly use Kickboard. We use Restorative Practices. That’s what a school leader emphatically said to me not long ago. I listened respectfully but inside my head I was just as emphatically replying, Oh, but they form the perfect partnership!
These real situations occurred this school year in Kickboard schools using Restorative Practices. Let’s take a closer look as to why our schools have had such success using the two initiatives side-by-side:
Kickboard is about building safe, happy schools. We focus on helping schools incorporate the right mindsets, school-wide systems, and data practices to intentionally build positive school cultures that best facilitate learning. Ultimately we want students to be successful in society beyond their school days.
Restorative Practices are also about building a positive community for students so that they are successful members of society. Proactive Restorative techniques, such as Effective Questioning and Check-In Circles, are Tier I strategies used with the whole group to lay the foundation for building a positive community. Then, when conflicts do arise (and they will), techniques such as Responsive Circles or Restorative Conferencing restore the positive community by repairing the harm done. Then, wrongdoers are less likely to become repeat offenders and are welcomed back into the fold.
This year, I was fortunate enough to attend a course in the center of the universe for all things Restorative-- the International Institute for Restorative Practices (IIRP) graduate school campus. One of my biggest takeaways from the class was that schools cannot throw out expectations and only focus on nurturing--it must be a combination of the two.
Punitive or “To” Sector: When schools or classrooms are solely focused on control, setting strong limits, and/or incorporating punitive discipline, yes, they are holding kids accountable for actions. However, this is only a one-way relationship. The adult is supplying the behavior response TO the student, not working in partnership with him or her. It’s most likely any positive improvements to behavior are only temporary and will likely revert once the student is outside such a highly controlled environment. This approach doesn’t set students up for independent success in society.
Permissive or “For” Sector: In quite different situations, when schools only focus on nurturing relationships without holding students accountable, they are doing the work FOR students, inadvertently setting kids up for failure by permitting unacceptable choices.
Neglectful or “Not” Sector: Doing neither nurture or accountability is neglectful and will likely end in chaos.
Restorative or “With” Sector: Schools or classrooms that achieve a healthy balance of high nurturing support alongside high limit-setting tend to spend most of the time in this ideal zone. According to Wachtel, “human beings are happier, more cooperative and productive, and more likely to make positive changes in their behavior when those in positions of authority do things WITH them, rather than to them or for them.” (2005)
Kickboard naturally causes schools to establish and positively reinforce consistent expectations of behavior. Because Kickboard’s focus is on high positivity and encouragement, it’s also high-support, thus helping schools stay in that Restorative sector of the Social Discipline Window.
Restorative Practices is really gaining traction across the nation as a researched-based best practice for promoting socio-emotional development and positive school culture. Of course we see many other effective models in our schools: Boy’s Town, CHAMPS, PBIS, Leader in Me, Capturing Kids’ Hearts to name a few. All of these programs are amazingly powerful when used with fidelity and intentional leadership but they are the how of it all, the tool schools use to facilitate the change.
Kickboard provides the measure so our schools can monitor how well their efforts are working. Whether schools are analyzing patterns of specific behaviors over time, checking in on class or individual behavior goals, or watching the health of the school using the positivity ratio, Kickboard provides the data to inform where adjustment or support is needed along the way to ensure the success of whichever program they’ve employed.
Back to the school leader who thought Kickboard and Restorative Practices were incompatible. I listened respectfully about the Restorative initiatives they had recently launched and affirmed his intentional leadership. Then I asked a simple question: How do you monitor progress to know how well all your efforts are working?
He really couldn’t answer my question with any sort of specificity. He didn’t realize then (as, he most definitely does now!) that Kickboard is the perfect progress monitoring tool to use in conjunction with Restorative Practices.