With Lower School Principal Dora Kwong and Middle School Principal Glenn Chickering leading the way, HPA’s Village Campus has a renewed focus on using restorative practices to create a community built upon kindness, not consequences. Restorative practices have been shown to foster a positive, healthy school climate and helping students learn from their mistakes.
Before landing at HPA, Kwong and Chickering spent some time at the renowned Green School in Bali, which helped shape their mindsets on both restorative practices and sustainability. We caught up with the two principals to get some insights on their restorative practice techniques and their plans to take HPA’s initiatives to new heights.
What is it, specifically, that draws you to using restorative practices and social-emotional tools in the school setting?
Dora: Students benefit from community and a sense of safety. We know these are crucial elements so they can take risks as learners, ask critical questions and delve deeply into experiences. True learning is actually quite messy. It involves making mistakes, starting over, deep diving, and admitting you don’t know it all. To do that, we have to make space for connections with and between students, to teach the whole child, and to have a culture of empathy, kindness, and lifelong learning. Restorative practices are a way of supporting students and creating this kind of community in line with our core values so we can fulfill our mission of providing exceptional learning opportunities, while also allowing them to take advantage and ownership of these opportunities fully and with aloha.
Glenn: Beautifully said, I can’t add much more but I’d say building healthy relationships in our community is also a key factor in our Mālama Kaiāulu model of educating for sustainability.
What is your favorite restorative practice and how do you use this in your work?
Dora: Mindful breathing and a body scan! Hands down my favorite way to regroup, and take a moment of rest. This is a practice that can be done anywhere, at any time, by anyone. My second favorite is circle sharing. It is a great way to be actively listening and sharing.
Glenn: The community circle is a great tool. It can be used for fun conversations to build community, discuss global issues, and even to resolve conflict. The practice of giving space for all to share their thoughts is a powerful tool in helping students develop agency and empathy.
How do you plan to integrate these practices into the student experience this year?
Dora: Our training in restorative practices really gave us a solid foundation in terms of language and strategies to incorporate into our existing practices. Teachers were already addressing student conflicts in a very student-centered and values-focused way. They were already running circle shares and morning meetings. Our work in restorative practices simply supports what Village Campus teachers are already doing and gives us more tools to do them effectively.
Glenn: In middle school, our Project Wayfinder program dovetails nicely with these practices and provides a space to integrate community circles and restorative dialogue.
The practice of giving space for all to share their thoughts is a powerful tool in helping students develop agency and empathy.
You both spent time working at the Green School in Bali – a school celebrated for nurturing the whole child; now that you’re together here at HPA, how does your experience in Bali carry over here at the Village Campus?
Dora: My time in Bali really enabled me to see education for sustainability practiced fully in a no holds barred type of way. I was excited to be an educator there because I had delved deeply in Education for Sustainability (EfS) in New York City, so to be somewhere that was built upon those ideas really intrigued me. Glenn was one of the original educators at Green School and I think his work there really impacted the direction of the school to where it is today. To be able to teach, and learn and grow in my time there and find a very raw outlet for the work I had done in New York City was so special. Now that I am here joining the Village Campus, I see so many opportunities for our K-8 collaboration and creativity in the realm of education for sustainability, and a mixing of my experiences in NYC and Bali. I love looking at what HPA has already done and what it wants to do and imagining new ways to bring our goals into reality. I feel very fortunate to be able to do this work with Glenn and know that we have a common understanding in, and love for, education for sustainability. When you look at the kind of student we want to graduate, the learning opportunities we are providing them are critical to build thinkers, doers, and changemakers. How can we make space for them to be their best, full selves, and how can we support them so they can follow their inspiration? This is the challenge that we are called to together and I think that is something we are eager to tackle as Village Campus.
Glenn: Being a part of Green School and immersing in EfS really highlighted for me the need to begin the conversation about sustainability with personal sustainability. As you get more familiar with the principles of sustainability, you understand that we are really talking about complex systems and how they function and interact with other complex systems and sustainability is about recognizing those interactions and looking to make them sustainable in all aspects.
From our personal physical and mental health to our relationships with family, friends, and community members and the natural world, our goal is to find Lōkahi, harmony between these entwined systems. HPAʻs Mālama Kaiāulu framework for sustainability appealed to me as it honors the need to nurture all of these personal, societal and natural systems.
Restorative Practices are a crucial first step. We need to have a good relationship with ourselves and our community members in order to work together to create healthy relationships with our natural world.
True learning is actually quite messy. It involves making mistakes, starting over, deep diving, and admitting you don’t know it all. To do that, we have to make space for connections with and between students, to teach the whole child, and to have a culture of empathy, kindness, and lifelong learning.
In the recent restorative practices workshop at HPA, what were some highlights with your faculty and what excites you about your collaboration in this work this year?
Dora: I love doing mindfulness work as a group. To know that no matter what your background, culture, experiences, family life, religion, gender identity, etc, you can take a moment and just breathe and notice what is happening around you and/or within you. It was great to see how faculty came up with ways to incorporate a pause into our busy days, whether it was a quick stretch, or a breathing technique, these strategies can support the mental health of our students and community as a whole, while also allowing them to see the importance of self-care. In addition to this, our focus on building trust and understanding, allowing others to be heard, and the work around understanding a student’s capacity, skills and motivations so they can be their whole selves.
Glenn: Working with our teams in circles that were designed to help us get to know each other better was a great way to begin the year and getting us working together as team focused on a common goal.