Just Schools: A Whole School Approach to Restorative Justice

By Belinda Hopkins | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Becoming a Listening School

Restorative approaches in school means everyone has a chance to be heard
and they provide opportunities for healing.

Administrative Assistant in a secondary school

This chapter focuses on the basic building block of all restorative processes – the art of active, empathic listening. It considers what this means in practice, how the skills can be developed and why becoming a listening school is a vital first step on the path to a whole school restorative approach. It also describes the process of restorative enquiry, a vital part of all restorative interventions, which has many applications in a school context.

Fortunately for the reader who has yet to get the support of the wider community of their school, empathic listening and restorative enquiry can be used by any individual wanting to make a difference in their classroom with their students, with their classmates or in their team. Even individuals acting differently can begin to make a difference, and although it can feel like an uphill struggle at times, people do notice and can begin to change as well.


Active, empathic listening

Listening with empathy and without overt judgement is the key to connection with another person and is one of the hardest things to do, especially when the other person may well not be giving you this quality listening. It sometimes feels as if active listeners have to do the job of two people. On the one hand they are refraining, in the first instance, from putting across their own point of view and their own feelings and thoughts on the matter being discussed. On the other hand they are acknowledging and perhaps articulating the thoughts and feelings of the other person, which may be coming across in a garbled and accusatory fashion. This takes a great deal of restraint and skill.

There are several key restorative beliefs underpinning active listening and these guide what I would call the intention of the restorative practitioner:

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