Authors: Dominique Smith, Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey
Wikipedia defines restorative practices thusly: a social science that studies how to improve and repair relationships between people and communities. The purpose is to build healthy communities, increase social capital, decrease crime and antisocial behavior, repair harm and restore relationships. It ties together research in a variety of social science fields, including education, psychology, social work, criminology, sociology, organizational development and leadership.
The book is well written and I appreciate the fact that the teachers are educators themselves who have put the principles into practice and found success. Particularly meaningful, are the student reflections on the experience. I am completely on board with the idea philosophically. I will readily admit that it took me too long as a teacher to figure out that relationships are everything. They are, in fact, far more important than content. It's not even close. The restorative work is not easy but, at least from what I've seen so far, it is worth the effort.
The problem in practice is that schools tend to move too fast. They want to move from the old punitive model to the restorative with a single administrative directive and it doesn't work. The shift involves glacial cultural change among all stakeholders. Frustrations and setbacks are inevitable. Patience on all sides can be severely tested. The book, and many other resources on the subject, warn of this. Districts heedlessly push on. Again, I'm on board philosophically but the growing pains are considerable.
It's also a tough book to read in the summer. I do my best to pretend I don't have a job in the summer. In July, I mostly succeed. In August, it's hard. I can smell it coming. A book about the most frustrating part of the job, especially, feels like an intrusion. I know it's good for me. But still.
If you're interested in the subject, Better Than Carrots or Sticks is a fine place to start.