We all remember what Uncle Ben told Spider-Man
“With great power comes great responsibility “.
But what if the reverse is also true?
“With great responsibility comes great power”.(Jim Kwik)
When we are responsible; response-able; able to respond in a calm, conscious, and deliberate way we are full of immense power.
This is what spiritual thought-leader Gary Zukav in The Seat of the Soul refers to as authentic power. It allows us to be the thermostat instead of the thermometer.
I agree wholeheartedly with Haim G. Ginott’s reflections in Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers
“It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration; I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”
I believe Restorative Practice facilitates this authentic power. It allows us to fully engage with our ability to positively influence others, to inform how the rest of the room experiences the weather, and most importantly how we care and empower our own self because as teachers, as human beings, we simply cannot give what we do not have.
The action research that I did as part of my masters revealed that the restorative reflective approach had a big impact of teachers’ feeling of empowerment, on their self-efficacy and, in turn, on their feeling of well-being. Teacher 5 says:
“I was regularly entering into power struggles and student X’s bad behaviour made me feel out of control”.
She later reveals
“I’m a dictator. I’m reflecting on the teacher I want to be. I’m going to change this”.
RP’s positive communication skills and mind-set can align us with our authentic power so we do not need to take anyone else’s. Even simply pausing to respond with a conscious restorative question such as ‘What happened?’ instead reacting with an accusatory
‘Why?’ can be transformative as Teacher 3 of my study suggests
“I loved that we were both expressing our needs in a positive calm manner. Knowing the right RP questions allowed me to respond in this way.”
When we are full of our own authentic power we have the confidence to be vulnerable enough to openly remind our students of theirs. The ease of deliberately admitting that we cannot control other people allows the exhale of the ego, leaving space to inhale from the heart.Rather than backing others into a corner or engaging in a power struggle by doing something TO them, what if we consciously paused, took a breath, and chose to clarify our intention of working collaboratively in the restorative WITH box?; Understanding and facilitating the liberating idea that we, as teachers, cannot and perhaps should not “make” our students do anything allows us to invite them to understand that they are powerful agents of change. We want our students to understand that they are actively making choices in every moment and indeed the consequences or positive shifts are to be fully owned.
How powerful would our world be if we lived from the knowing that we are all, teachers included, responsible for the energy that we bring to a room, to a person, or to each situation? (Jill Bolte Taylor)
Vanndering’s Relationship Window reminds me to usher my energy towards a supportive dialogue that feels good for the spirit, honours relationships, and that brings out the best in the self and others.
It frees us of the unrealistic and stressful expectation that we must/can control everything that takes place in our classrooms. Instead, we get to encourage, cultivate values-based expectations, model positive behaviour, and most importantly take responsibility for our own responses and how we feel.
Surely we want students to do the same, to understand that our engagement is invitational, mutually beneficial, and one that is led by connection and our own inner compass? I certainly don’t get it right all the time but in these moments, I am trying to honour my values and invite my students to seek and live through theirs.
..If we are not modelling what we are teach, we are teaching something else..
(Hopkins 2006, P.165)
I am on career break from my lovely school this year and received a beautiful thank you letter from one of my dearly missed students last month. He shared how much he believed in RP, that it taught him
…how to live (his) life, how to be a person in the world…
He inspires me. I thank him.