This week, NL celebrates as a new partnership is being announced! Relationship First: Restorative Justice in Education Consortium of NL. Key educational partners* have joined together around the same table to actively promote relational cultures instead of rule-based cultures to support healthy development of children, youth, their families and societies.
After this weekend when we saw Paris in turmoil, and the reality of what people are capable of doing to each other (and themselves), it is important to feel that there can also be Hope. This is a significant week for adults, children and youth alike for celebrating Hope in NL, in Canada, and the World. In this week, we celebrate the growing realization that Relationships come First! Not stiffer penalties, not zero-tolerance, not more power, not more alienation—but it’s healthy relationships that will make the difference. Research of all kinds is confirming that no matter what age, we thrive when we belong, when others take time to look us in the eye, walk with us in difficult times, encourage us, and honour us as worthy regardless of what happens. Healthy brain development from pre-birth onward can only happen if we feel valued by and connected to others; healthy societies will only grow if we put aside our tendency to force others to conform and instead take time to listen, really listen to each other.
The turmoil that has evolved in Paris is complex but its root causes are no different than those we see occurring amongst children and youth, amongst children, youth and adults, and amongst adults on a daily basis. We have forgotten how to be in relationship with each other. We are so encouraged socially to look first to our personal needs, to being the fittest survivor, to being independent individuals, to satisfying our insatiable wants that we have almost buried what we know to be the truth—that to really be at my best, I need others. I cannot go it alone.
Last Monday evening St. John’s City Council proclaimed Nov. 15-22 to be Restorative Justice Week. Nationally, we heard Prime Minister Trudeau mandate his justice minister to review and implement more human ways of addressing the needs of those harmed and those who cause harm through restorative justice. This week, in our schools there will be an emphasis on Bullying Awareness and many will be wearing pink shirts. Last week PrevNet (Preventing Violence and Eliminating Violence Network), Canada’s leading authority on research and resources for bullying prevention, held its national conference reminding those who attended, that bullying is a relationship problem requiring a relationship solution. The Relationships First Consortium draws on the foundational principles of each and is committing to lead the province by example into very practical ways of living so that the dignity and worth of all of us is upheld. We invite everyone to come and celebrate this launch Thursday, Nov. 19 @ 7:00 PM at MUN”s Bruneau Centre. You’ll hear about our vision and mission, our services, and stories told by educators who have been integrating relational principles into every aspect of teaching and learning. Free parking available.
*Thrive, Coalition Against Violence, Women’s Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women, NL Teachers’ Association; NL English School District, St. Bonaventure’s College, Memorial University Faculty of Education