Restorative Practices, Rumi, and the Great Wave
I recently received an email from Dave Bulley that inspired me.
Before I share it with you, however, let me provide some context.
My friend Ted Wachtel, the Restorative Practices pioneer and founder of the wonderful International Institute for Restorative Practices, has been predicting a great wave of interest in Restorative Practices for over a decade.
For most of that time, I've only noticed modest interest in Restorative Practices. Still, I never doubted Ted's prediction: He is usually ahead of the curve.
Recently, however, I see undeniable signs.
Of course, 8 years ago the American Psychological Association released a report criticizing zero tolerance policies as ineffective and recommending restorative justice among other alternatives.
Then just last month, the US Department of Education and the US Department of Justice jointly sent a "dear colleague" letter to all school administrators in the US. It too criticized zero tolerance policies and mandatory suspensions, particularly for the disparity with which these measures are applied to students of color. In addition, it recommended that schools "...involve students and student advocates in maintaining a safe, inclusive, and positive educational environment through programs such as peer mediation and restorative justice, as appropriate."
But that's the official word, which in my experience lags far behind other "indicators:" the countless pieces in newspapers, professional journals and on TV, including a number in the New York Times and this piece last week on PBS television; the many regional conferences like this recent one at Harvard Law School.
And most significantly, the educators in school after school who are applying restorative practices on the ground. SMA has received more requests to train educators in Restorative Practices than ever before. And each time we work with a school, it seems to lead to requests from neighboring schools.
This has been a déjà vu experience for me. In the early days of the peer mediation "movement," articles were written, conferences were held, teachers were talking. Without official endorsements, and with virtually no money to support the work, enthusiastic and committed educators found a way to get it done.
Eventually, a "great wave" of peer mediation covered the globe...
Which brings me to Dave Bulley and his colleagues at Turners Falls High School in Montague, Massachusetts. Dave's official title is Alternative Learning Center teacher; he coordinates the in-school suspension program.
Thanks to years of groundwork by the Gill-Montague Community School Partnership, I was invited to introduce Restorative Practices to Dave and many of the administrators in the Gill-Montague Regional School District. I conducted the training last August.
About a month ago, Dave sent me this:
When a student was sent to me today I began our conversation by telling him how excited I was that the art department was going to make me a poster with one of my favorite Rumi quotes.
He asked what the quote was and I shared:
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there."
The student heard that, smiled, and said, "Yeah Mr. Bulley, that's exactly how your room is."
This is a tough student who I've been forced to send home before. So to hear that from him really made my day.
Thanks for letting me share.
Because of Dave's dedication and skill--under difficult circumstances, and often with the most challenging students--he is able to hold students accountable while simultaneously making them feel like he cares about them and is "on their side."
He creates Rumi's "field" right there at the high school!
Many of Dave's colleagues in Gill-Montague have also become restorative practices advocates, integrating it into the way they do their jobs on a daily basis (many were already quite restorative before the training).
These are the stories of which "great waves" are made, and they are happening with greater frequency all across the country.
I'm not sure this is the big one, but clearly something is happening.
What do you think? Do you see signs of the growth of restorative practices in your area?
More information about Restorative Practices:
- This 2007 issue of The School Mediator is an introduction to Restorative Practices
- This 2012 issue compares mediation and restorative practices
Incidentally, Dave Bully is a writer in his own right. To check out his work, visit his website.