Sticking with the theme of anecdotes, here's one from last week's eForum article by IIRP graduate student Tamam Moncur about her experience adapting restorative practices for use within the context of a weekly church soup kitchen.
The first restorative meeting we had at the soup kitchen happened as a result of my Nikon camera being stolen. In my Action Research project for my 510 class at the Institute (Professional Learning Group [PLG] Seminar: Restorative Project), I had planned to address developing empathy in volunteers, then lo and behold, my camera was taken.
This incident certainly challenged the depth of my own empathy. When incidents like this happen to me, I don’t respond in anger. I usually internalize my anger and mull over my disappointment, while simultaneously feeling violated. One of the volunteers felt that I should just forget about it, knowing that many of our clients were substance abusers and/or financially strapped. The other volunteers sympathized with me and said we needed to be careful about our belongings.
I knew that I wanted to address the issue. I posed the problem to my PLG at the Institute and got great suggestions that helped me address the problem restoratively. I did not assign blame but informed the community why the camera was important to the program and how it made me feel to lose the camera. I encouraged their empathy by asking if they had ever had anything taken. Furthermore, I made it clear that I wasn’t looking to punish or blame anybody, and I told them that if the camera were returned, no questions would be asked. I also designed a leaflet about the situation for people who might have missed the discussion.
Out of the discussion, codes of behavior started emerging that would soon become part of the Covenant of Conduct, which was developed by soup kitchen clients and volunteers. The entire restorative process made me feel better because we talked about the incident. I let the clients know how the incident made me feel, and they showed genuine concern. That evening turned out great. I never got the camera back, but confronting the issue helped me tremendously in dealing with my sense of loss.
As she explains in the full article, Moncur learned about restorative practices as a school teacher. She subsequently retired from teaching, but not before beginning and then deciding to continue her master's degree at IIRP.
To learn more about IIRP graduate education, click here.