Wednesday, September 12, 2012

First CPS , then do RT - restorative justice

Exposing teachers to the Self Determination theory of motivation can be very helpful in moving teachers away from a focus on 'compliance' where teachers rely on rewards and punishments ,  to a focus on community , a commitment to values and solving problems in a collaborative way.  

SDT posits that when a child's needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness are met , he will become a responsible , competent and  a caring student.  Rewards , consequences and punishments  not only don't  teach lagging skills – competence  or solve the underlying problem , but impact negatively on ' relatedness ',  and the intrinsic and autonomous  motivation of a student to engage in collaborative problem solving and restitution.

Some schools have been moving away from punishments and adopting a ' restorative justice system ' approach to discipline.  Schools that still see accountability as having a student pay a price or make amends tend to still impose  ' restitution ' and making amends  in a top-down manner .  

When we frame accountability as a commitment to values , the focus is firstly on actually solving the problem in collaborative and durable way which is the ultimate of accountability , and then the kid can engage in an autonomous way in the act of restitution and make  amends.  Making amends may indicate that the student is remorseful and does not want to repeat the behavior , but as Dr Greene says – if we don't come up with a mutually satisfying solution to the underlying problem , the kid will be ' making amends ' over and over again.

The question is what comes first – CPS collaborative problem solving or making amends / restitution. ?

The Jewish new  year – Rosh Hashanah is also the day of judgment. About 10 days later we have Yom Kippur , where Jews fast and pray for atonement for their sins over the past year.

The obvious question is -  should we first not try to deal with the past and atone for our sins before the day of judgment , should not Yom Kippur come before Rosh Hashanah ?

The answer is that true accountability means coming up with a better plan, solving problems and creating a vision for the future. We have to free ourselves from the past which can inhibit our vision and  keep us  tied down when we try to create our vision. Only then , after creating our vision  can we deal with the past . On Rosh Rashana we stand before God as people with a new vision or new plan. We say we are not the same person , we have changed, judge us according to our new vision and commitment. On Yom Kippur we deal with our pasts , and atone for our sins.

The same goes for CPS. We have to free the kid from the negativity of fixing the past and making amends  and first focus on his concerns. In restorative justice we first focus on the victim's concerns. In CPS , we start with the kid's concerns and his vision.

Once he comes up with a solution for the problem that also addresses his concerns and has a new vision of the future,  he will be in a better position to autonomously engage in restitution etc. The quality of restitution and making amends after CPS will be totally different than when RT – restorative justice precedes CPS.

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