First school in the entire trip was CORIO (pronounced co-rye-oh) BAY SENIOR COLLEGE (about 350 students) where I met their Student Wellbeing Coordinator, CHRIS KING. The 'senior college' concept apparently came about 15-16 years ago when schools were amalgamated then reorganised into 'junior' and senior' colleges. It appears that some people are in favour of the concept and others aren't.
Classroom conferencing takes a considerable proportion of Christine’s time each week - when staff go to her with frustrations about students, a conference is usually the result. Even staff who are not directly involved in a difficult class situation are sometimes invited to attend a conference, as a means of expanding staff awareness of restorative practices. To raise the awareness of parents to this way of dealing with conflict, the school has included articles in the weekly newsletter - but there is the accepted reality that many newsletters do not get to parents hands (sound familiar?). Chris has also trialled a talk on restorative practices during a General Information Evening - but found that 15 minutes was insufficient to explain a refined concept like restorative justice. Chris said that parents are very supportive of the school's path as a restorative school.
Chris said that restorative practices were accepted practice in the wider youth arena in Geelong with both Police Resource Officers (equiv. Youth Aid) and local magistrates favouring a restorative path.
Chris was extremely well organised and including talks with Steve (the Principal) and Mick (a technology teacher), I enjoyed an informative talk with Pierre and Sue who work as yr 11 and yr 12 Year Level Coordinators - the combined equivalent of our 6 Heads of Houses at Rosehill College. Pierre and Sue declared that restorative practices had changed the way that they worked - moving from looking a 'discipline' role to more of a problem solving role. Clearly, both Sue and Pierre felt that restorative practices had changed their role at school - pre RPs, they had been fallen unwillingly into the confined and negative pattern of sorting out teachers relationship hassles with teachers. With the intervention of restorative practices, Pierre and Sue were reallocating their time by facilitating restorative events, putting the responsibility back to the teachers and students themselves. Pierre spoke of the 10% rule - that restorative practices work for 90% of students and that there is acceptance that other measures are needed for the 10% who do not accept responsibility for their actions.
Areas of particular interest were the concept of 'Tribes', which is an American notion of community building - that has values replicating RJ. One of CBSC's two feeder schools has a strong commitment to 'Tribes' and clearly the wish is that the other feeder school did too. Steve (Principal) described the school's commitment to restorative practices as a indicator of the CBSC's role of teaching 'emotional intelligence' - life skills.
Interestingly, CBSC has found that the restorative conference script works well with lateness to class and truancy - both of which are clearly big headaches for the school which has many students living independently of parents.
As I left, Chris and Mick (tech teacher) were earnestly planning how to organise a tricky class conference with a VCAL class (equivalent of our yr 11 Work Experience) - good luck for the conference, Chris, and thanks again for all the preparation that you put in for my visit:)
I was greeted cheerfully by GEOFF BLAIR who works as a Student Manager (Dean/HoH equivalent) at NORTH GEELONG SECONDARY COLLEGE (560 students) - a full year 7 -12 college (equivalent of a NZ High School). Geoff described NGSC as Geelong's most multicultural college - but it seemed to be no more culturally diverse than Rosehill College. One of the first things that Geoff mentioned was that he had heard of Rosehill College in restorative circles - and shortly after that I was briefly introduced to a staff member Fred who asked me to clarify if RJ came from a Maori model of conflict resolution. The world is a small place!
NGSC used to work on a horizontal system and it was only when the college shifted to a house system such as Rosehill's over 10 years ago that the relative ineffectiveness of punishment-based student management became apparent. Geoff described "going home feeling pissed off because nothing got fixed" - the pattern of student behaviour and staff behaviour repeating itself. Moral in the Student Management team (HoHs) was "terrible".
When restorative practices arrived at NGSC in the later 90's (with the arrival of a RJ dynamo, David Vinegrad), the emphasis quickly went into classroom conferencing. Even today, the bulk of the RJ energy goes into classroom issues with many schoolground conflicts not yet being attended to restoratively because of time constraints.
Geoff described a very transparent and fair process for dealing with classroom difficulties that I liked a lot, based upon a combination of "Relocation" (equivalent of Rosehill College "withdrawal") and RJ.
The steps for a teacher are:
1. Non-verbal contact (I suppose a gesture or discreet indicator to the student that his/her behaviour is inappropriate)
2. Rule reminder
4. Move to another seat
5. Time out - in the room
5. Relocation - to a predesignated room in the school (juniors placed in senior classes, seniors placed into junior classes)
The great stuff about this system is that when student is in relocation, they has to fill out a 'Think Sheet' - which obliges the student to be reflective about their behaviour. Sometime later, the student has to take the completed sheet back to the teacher they 'hurt' and enter a restorative talk about their behaviour. If the teacher and student can agree that the matter is addressed and harm has been repaired (both sign off the Think Sheet), the student is entitled to re-enter the class the next day - the issue is logged on the school database as a means of record keeping and parents are called to keep them updated. If however, the teacher or student (or both!) feel that the issue is not sorted, the student cannot go back to class until a mini-conference is held between the teacher, the student and his/her parent(s) - facilitated by a Student Manager (HoH). This system clearly places responsibility on teachers and students to attempt to heal the harm between them - and keeps issues away from middle management until the teacher and student are truly 'stuck'.
Geoff says that parents are totally behind the school's restorative style. In the governmental survey of parent satisfaction, NGSC has steadily been increasing its rating, with last year being its highest rating ever - congratulations to the staff and students of NGSC!
Thanks for your time, Geoff - keep up the great work
The system described by Geoff to deal with classroom issues is similar to some used in NZ schools – but it seems that NGSC have made it very workable and it involves management and parents at the right time (if at all) – this could easily work at Rosehill College.
The concept of ‘Tribes’ described by Chris and Steve deserves more scrutiny – and could have important implications for building a positive school culture.
Overall, a great start to the study trip.