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Children taught to learn from mistakes



Restitution working at Don Ross Secondary School

Helping kids learn that making mistakes is OK, and that the important thing is to make amends for them, can lead to a healthier and safer school environment.

The approach is known as restitution and it has been embraced at Don Ross Secondary in Squamish over the last three years.

Recently one of the local leaders in restitution, a teacher at Don Ross, came to Myrtle Philip elementary school to share ideas with parents at a Parent Advisory Council meeting.

"Inviting Rose MacKenzie to speak goes back to what our goals are and education is one of them," said PAC chair Cathy Jewett.

"It’s education for everybody, not just the students but also the parents, the families, and the staff."

Jewett said MacKenzie’s ideas were an important tool to add to the others parents, teachers and schools use to keep kids on track.

"It was a very positive way to point out how your actions can have an effect on someone else and also on yourself," said Jewett.

"The school is a huge part of raising a child but so is the community and the family. It is all those things together. So the question is how do we get everyone to look at this?"

Over the last decade discipline has remained one of the main challenges for teachers everywhere.

Many models have been looked at and tried to manage the problem. What stands out is that any system based on fear, coercion or reward is doomed to fail.

The reason for this is that youth can’t develop emotional intelligence without being able to reflect and make independent decisions. Any system of learning which uses heavy authority, position, threats, rules, punishment and rewards will, over the long run, perpetuate the very behaviors it is trying to eliminate.

Punishment results in children being detached from their moral sense as their feelings become numbed.

And incidents of bullying will only be resolved if children are taught to create communities together and meet their power-needs in productive ways.

The themes of restitution are already paying off at Don Ross said MacKenzie.

Kids are more likely to come and admit to inappropriate behaviour and mistakes because they know they will not be punished but rather guided through a process focused on how to fix what they have done.

MacKenzie recalled an incident where a student, while goofing around, put his foot through a wall creating a big hole.

"Rather than just leaving it and walking away he came downstairs and said, ‘I kicked a hole in the wall.’" said MacKenzie in an interview after the presentation.