Friday, 18 August 2017

Restorative Practices: "Open our minds and hearts..." one parent's reflection

When I created this change2flourish blog, the intent was to create a forum for authors to collaborate and share first hand experiences of change (learn more).

My challenge has been to find contributors willing to share their experiences. That is until now. I sincerely wish to thank Kate Cherfi, one of our school parents, for sharing an honest reflection about change in her family as an outcome of a Restorative Practice evening at school.

At the end of an enlightening Restorative Practice evening in the school hall, I stood up to thank the internationally renowned presenter, David Vinegrad. I explained that I had taken copious notes and asked if anyone else had done the same. One lone hand went up out of about one hundred parent and teachers.

I am thrilled to be able to share with you a very personal reflection from the other person who bravely admitted to taking notes - Kate Cherfi. Kate attended the evening with her husband Adrian. Kate and Adrian have two daughters at St Patrick's School, Ada in Year 3 and Willow in Year 2.

Here is Kate's reflection:

I think as a parent we need to be taught the right way to be the perfect role models for younger generations. Growing up I grew up with dismissive parents who led me to believe that this was the only way to discipline. How wrong I was to think and act this way. I too had taken their approach on board and its only done more harm than good. I was left powerless.

After hearing David's approach its just so easy to apply because he’s reminding us of what has been missing all along. Family values and respect for one another.

I LOVE his point about shifting the focus from the wrongdoers and promoting empathy for both parties. This is key. I had to use his approach with Ayda yesterday and it worked beautifully and given this was a new approach from me in the end she asked for a cuddle and looked me in the eye and said, “thanks for sitting down with me and talking about it mum”. I feel empowered as a parent and as a woman and I do hope that my kids will grow up using the same approach.

Every night now we play True or False. Two truths and one lie. I didn’t like using the word lie so changed it to false. The kids love it and it gives me an opportunity to make a new story up each night. Lol..There’s a big kid within!!

So in a nutshell I think it was amazing having David speak and helping us adults open our minds and hearts again, and showing us the way.

Kate Cherfi

David Vinegrad's website
Relationships, relationships and relationships
Here is a summary of the evening for those of you who attended or for those of you who were unable to come along and want to learn more about Restorative Practices. You can access the slideshow at this link. One word to sum up the powerful message from the evening was "relationships". David stressed that the 3 R's central to quality parenting are - relationships, relationships and relationships.

Within two minutes of our Student Wellbeing Leader Angela Yates introducing David, we were asked to move our chairs and sit in two large circles, an inner and an outer one. There was much laughter as we had to introduce ourselves to the person sitting opposite and answer questions. Before we knew it, David's chime sounded out and we had to move seats and talk with another person. In those brief conversations, we made new connections and shared insights into out fears, hopes and dreams for our children. At the same time we were building relationships and connections with those around us.
When David asked parents what sort of attributes they wanted their children to have when they left St Patrick's some of the responses were: compassion, honesty, resilience, empathy. Interestingly enough, being a star mathematician or a the best writer didn't feature. Aligning school values with family values will enable children to be supported to flourish.

Restorative Practices is the whole school approach that underpins the Pastoral Care and Behavioural Support programme at St Patrick's. It is guided by Catholic Education Melbourne's policies focused on student well being and building resilience.
As David explained, restorative practice is about managing behaviours through a relationship lens. It is about separating the behaviour from the child and restoring relationships to be respectful and productive. It is about moving away from a blame and shame model to genuinely understanding the harm and repairing the relationship. 

Restorative Practice is about enabling children to be confident enough to own their behaviours and understand boundaries, limits and expectations. It is about a balance between being firm and fair. It is understanding that being sorry means more than just saying the words, but it means a change in behaviour.
Have a W.A.R.R.M. Conversation
David uses the acronym "warm" to describe a restorative conversation. This is something that parents can talk through with children at home. Research supports that encouraging children to articulate their behaviours and feelings improves oral language skills whilst building resilience and self-esteem 
What happened ? (what, which, when, who, where, how?)
Affect (who has been affected and in what ways?)
Reflection (if you had your time over again what would be different?)
Repair (what needs to happen to fix things ?)
Moving on - (make plans and agreements for prevention and behaviour change)

Empower our children and build resilience
David spoke of the importance in letting the children learn to speak about their concerns with their teachers and friends. Sometimes, parents want to take matters into their own hands and solve their children's problems. We must encourage our children to learn to speak up at school to help solve problems instead of relying on parents emailing concerns on behalf of the children.

When you see your child at the end of the day you can ask "What was the best part of your day at school ?" Avoid asking "How was your day?" or "What didn't go well today ?" Focus on the positive and ask open ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer.

As Kate mentioned, play the "two truths and one false game" with your children. Spend quality time talking together. Open your minds and hearts to your children and to each other. 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Interruption & Hope : Purposefully wading into deeper waters

                                                                                                        "Do not be afraid" Mt. 14:27

A personal reflective response to THCT605 Enhancing Catholic School Identity (ECSI): Introducing the Leuven Project
This is my early understanding in relation to the Leuven Project. It is a personal interpretation, a way for me to recontextualise my learning so that it will be meaningful for the local school community. In sharing this reflection, I welcome interruption to my thoughts through dialogue as we purposefully wade into deeper waters together.
 Jesus Walking On Water by Gloria Ssali Fine Art America

1. Interruption
How can a school leader abandon their school for five days after an emergency closure due to water damage ? This was the question I grappled with when an unexpected event, interrupted and displaced some of our school community from their regular teaching and learning spaces in the days leading up to this course.

2. Hope
Three valid reasons enabled the interruption to provide a space for new learning and formation:
a) I implicitly trust the capabilities of our very able staff. Emails and phone calls are reassuring. b) Prior enrolment in the Australian Catholic University (ACU) paper generously sponsored by Catholic Education Melbourne (CEM) meant that I was committed. c) A duty as a school leader to fully understand the ECSI Project in light of our school report and a personal challenge to further support and enhance Catholic school identity in the hope that it will flourish.

3. Interruption
Professor Didier Polleyfet and Jan Bouwens presenting the ECSI Project to Catholic school leaders, August 2017
After our first full day of learning, my head was spinning with theological terms, words and phrases associated with the ECSI Project. Like all learning, we have to be brave enough to fall into the pit (Butler & Edwards, 1994 cited in Nottingham, 2003) before we can truly rise to the challenge of new learning.
On my second morning, after alighting from a tram full of commuters staring at their mobile phone screens, my eyes were immediately drawn to the sun glistening on a large bronze crucifix outside the headquarters of CEM, James Goold House. This symbol was an interruption to the norm, an immovable presence amidst the hurrying passersby.
Image from Taiwan Today

4. Hope
Passersby appeared oblivious to the bronze crucifix, a striking symbol of Christianity. Yet, it was on the morning of our fifth and final day, when I finally believed my new learning was making sense, that my perception of the insignificance of the symbol to passersby changed. I noticed a single, white lily had been placed at the foot of the crucifix. Immediately, this simple gesture, had transformed a traditional symbol of Catholic identity into the present space where dialogue, personal encounter and hope could connect and flourish.

5. Interruption
The latest publication from Pollefeyt and Bouwens
As leaders and teachers in Catholic schools, we are called to enable space and place for personal encounters within the rich tapestry of Catholic symbols, prayer, scripture and tradition. Research from the Leuven Project (Pollefeyt & Bouwens, 2014), grounded in data from our Australian schools, suggests that Religious Education primarily based on Christian Values is not enough within the context of our secularising society. We have to challenge ourselves to dig more deeply, in order to purposefully connect the mystery and tradition of our Catholic faith, with the contemporary lives of our learners today.
To help explain this, I have likened this challenging interruption to an iceberg analogy.

Personal iceberg analogy to explain a way to enhance Catholic Identity in our schools today.

6. Hope
We can help our learners to engage in a sacred space, to enable a personal encounter with our loving God. Research from Pollefeyt and Bouwens (2014), indicates that the two main areas where we can make an impact are:
a) The creative use of scripture and
b) Engaging learners in prayer.

Let's support our learners to connect with and make sense of their personal life experiences in the contemporary world of today, by purposefully wading into deeper waters together.  "Do not be afraid" Mt. 14:27.

Through intentional interruption and by drawing deeply from Catholic sacraments, traditions, symbols and stories (Sharkey, 2015), we can enable a vibrant, living, contemporary Catholicity to flourish.

This reflection is an attempt to recognise the following theological interpretations:
Interruption - Boeve (2016) argues that a productive tension between theology and religious studies interrupting each other is mutually beneficial.
Hope -  Sharkey (2017) challenges us to reflect on and celebrate the seeds of hope we can identify in our current practise.


Boeve, L. (2016). Theology at the crossroads of university, church and society: Dialogue, difference and Catholic identity. London, United Kingdom: Bloombsbury.

Nottingham, J. (2003). The Learning Challenge. Retrieved from

Pollefeyt, D. & Bouwens, J. (2014). Identity in Dialogue. Assessing and enhancing Catholic school identity. Munster, Germany: Lit Verlag.

Sharkey, P. (2015). Educator's guide to Catholic identity. Victoria, Australia: Vaughan Publishing.