Participant names have been changed to protect privacy.
Year 4, Birmingham
Stefan struggled in the early weeks of Peacemakers, to participate in groups with people he didn’t feel he could work well with. He often lacked concentration. As the sessions progressed he became eager to please, settled quickly and made some fantastic, thoughtful contributions to whole group discussions. Stefan made a breakthrough towards the end of the course. He was asked to work with a group of children and immediately became sullen, but with just a little encouragement, and when left to it, he chose to participate with the group well and they all completed the task together.
Aisha and Mohammed
Year 3, Birmingham
There was a personality clash between Aisha and Mohammed in the classroom. They didn’t get along and so the teacher would often make sure they worked away from each other. Aisha and Mohammed participated in a 10-week Peacemaker course with the rest of their class, where they learnt how to talk about conflict and what happens to them when things go wrong. One lunch time, after the course had finished, Aisha came to her teacher very upset. She said, ‘Miss, Mohammed has taken the hoop off me, we used blaming language and now we’ve got to the top of the conflict escalator’. Her teacher asked, ‘Do you remember what we did in Peacemakers? Do you need me to sort this out or do you think you and Mohammed could talk this out together? I can stay in the room with you’. By this time Mohammed had followed Aisha and was standing with her. They decided to try and sort it out themselves. They talked in the classroom whilst their teacher was at her desk. They successfully resolved the issue. During the afternoon, the teacher asked Aisha and Mohammed to work together on a task. They were able to work together for the whole afternoon without any further issues.
Connor used to struggle to make friends and relate to others. The school had a watching eye on him. One day Connor came in from the playground during lunchbreak, visibly distressed about something that happened. He talked a bit about the problem which had happened between him and two friends. The adult then offered to help him sort it out thinking he would need support. But Connor said no, replying: ‘I think I can work it out’. When asked what he would do, he explained he was going to go and sit with the friend he had fallen out with and say: ’I’m really sorry about what I said, I didn’t mean it. I want to try and sort this out’. After lunch the adult checked in with Connor and asked how it went and got a big thumbs up and a smile!
Max found his first term in Reception difficult. He was quite closed up and found it hard to build relationships and so he didn’t have any friends. After some months of Peacemaker circles and a restorative response not only did he make some friends, which made a big difference for him, but he was also able to be empathic and support others having a hard time. One day he was in the classroom when a girl came in crying, and he got up and put his arms around her. This was huge for him.
Year 4, Birmingham
Lara was a year 4 student with selective mutism at school. She didn’t speak in class to the teacher and didn’t interact much with her peers at playtime either, preferring to play with family. She remained silent for Peacemaker sessions, choosing to pass the ball for check in when it was her turn, though would silently join in the games using hand signals and was actively listening to the sessions. In week 5, she chose to speak when it was her turn in the check in. Each week after this, she either spoke in the circle or actively volunteered to take part in an activity, including standing on her own in the middle of the circle. On reflection, her teacher, Mr M commented that it “made his day” when she spoke in the circle for the first time. To see her confidence grow within the safety of the circle was encouraging for us all.
Steve was new to teaching and had come from a business background. He was charismatic, enjoyed performing in the classroom and delivering high-energy lessons. His outcomes were good. Steve was a bit cynical when asked to take part in a Peacemakers circle course and sat for the first session with his arms folded and didn’t say a word. However, as he began to see the level to which the children were engaging in activities, he started to change his mind. Steve saw children who were previously quiet, speaking up and taking a more active part. Steve saw competitive children sharing resources and asking for the opinion of others. Over the weeks, Steve himself began to take a more active part in the circle games and, as a result, got to know more of the children in his class. By week five, he was noticing that the learning from the circle was being applied in academic subjects, he also commented on the developed group working skills he could see in certain children. Steve now describes his experience in Peacemakers’ circle as a move from cynic to convert.
Teaching Assistant – Alternative Provision Unit
Damien was a young teaching assistant tasked with supporting some of the most vulnerable and challenging young people in the school. Damien had some personal past experience violence that he had disclosed to the Principle. The Principle believed in Damian’s capacity and ability but knew that he lacked confidence. As part of the schools’ commitment to creating an inclusive restorative school, Damien attended a 3-day training course in restorative practice. During the course, Damian demonstrated an ability to engage, to listen deeply, to ask pertinent questions and show a level of connection to others that his colleagues were impressed by. Damian’s confidence grew as he put the practical ideas and the language he learnt on the course to use. He saw results with young people within days. Damien began to realise he had a pedagogy, a way of working that suited him and got results. Damien was growing as an educator. His confidence flourished as he developed both personally and professionally and was seen by his colleagues to be a remarkable restorative practitioner and role model for young people in the school.
Head Teacher – Special School
Laura is a dynamic, enthusiastic and committed Head Teacher. She had been working with Peacemakers to develop restorative approaches in the school for a year. During this time, Laura enjoyed positive relationships with staff, students and parents. But over COVID-19 and the lockdowns, Laura felt a shift in relationships take place within the school. Children were presenting more challenging behaviours and staff began calling for stricter sanctions as a response. This was unusual as up to now, the staff team had been working hard to reduce sanctions, particularly exclusions. Staff were now telling Laura that the children had too much control. Laura was confused by these changes in attitude and frustrated she couldn’t be physically present to have the conversations she felt needed to happen with both staff and pupils. Laura knew the power a circle and conversations framed around the restorative enquiry could have but she couldn’t see a way to have them during the enforced separation. Laura asked for support from Peacemakers and had a coaching call.
Over the course of the call, Laura was able to recognise the pressure people were feeling during the pandemic and began to see more clearly how this might have been affecting relationships. From the call, Laura agreed to connect up with staff to hear their concerns and find a way forward. Laura then carried out a virtual circle with her team to discuss the use of rewards and punishments. Laura listened to peoples’ perception of how sanctions and consequences were needed in order to encourage desirable behaviour and reduce unwanted behaviour. Laura created space for other voices to be heard. These voices highlighted other forms of discipline, or learning, that come from positive relationships. Stories were shared around how pupil’s behaviour often changed depending on how connected they felt to an adult, their peers and the subject matter. The conversation shifted to acknowledge that when we are socially engaged, our need for control and compliance reduces. People then connected these ideas to the experience of the online circle Laura was facilitating. People commented that by Laura asking them about their thoughts and feelings, they had begun to feel more connected to her, more open to new ideas and had developed more empathy for the young people. The team concluded that adult-imposed discipline strategies were potentially working to deny young people opportunities to develop empathy, moral reasoning and the impact harm can have on others.
Participant on the Positive Women Positive Peace course held at Anawim, Birmingham
When I first came to the Positive Women, Positive Peace course, I was really nervous, but Jackie and Helen made me feel so welcome. I instantly felt things were going to change for the better. I was in a violent relationship for 10 years, both ways, and I believed that it was OK to use violence if you were protecting a family member or a child. Positive Women, Positive Peace has totally changed my view. I no longer find any violence acceptable. Learning about the different kinds of violence and how it can be used to oppress people was really eye-opening.
I love the way Jackie and Helen used a Koosh ball as a talking piece in our group to give everyone a chance to talk, and also the way they took time to listen to how members of the group really felt. I particularly enjoyed the Magic Carpet which is an amazing tool to inspire confidence in group members.
After completing the course, I felt a change in me. I no longer feel as much anger as I used to. I was thrilled when Jackie and Helen asked me to be a co-facilitator on the next course. They not only taught me leadership skills, but they discussed many topics after the group and opened my eyes to the violence other cultures endure as well as our own.
I really enjoyed going out to the park and learning to use all my senses and trust in people when we did an activity blindfolded. It felt really good leading this with other women because I know what it feels like for them. It’s not easy to put your trust in others when you have been through what we have. This course has inspired me to go on and co-facilitate another course at Anawim, the Confidence course, and in the future train for peer mentoring. I thoroughly enjoy it and I can’t wait to see what more knowledge I can gain from Jackie and Helen in the future.