Restoring Community

On Sunday afternoon, October 16, 2011 the International Institute for Restorative Practices hosted a celebration at its Bethlehem, Pennsylvania campus to acknowledge its accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The event was attended by students, faculty, alumni, administration, board members and friends of IIRP, and underwritten by Grim, Biehn and Thatcher law offices.

Over the next three days I'll be posting the speeches that were delivered Sunday, starting today with remarks by 2010 alumna, Sharon Mast:


 

Sharon Mast Speaking at IIRP Accreditation CelebrationImagine…

…A group of 4-year-olds sitting in a circle and working through a typical preschool scenario together: One child is not willing to play nice, but instead of the teacher calling a time out and doling out a punishment, she works "with" them to build on their strengths and find a winning solution.

…A 16-year-old being given the opportunity – through affective questioning – to understand how his actions and behaviors have affected his classmates, his parents and his school; and with high support and clear boundaries, he learns critical problem solving skills that will help him to change his erratic behavior.

… A business leader using fair process with her employees, and as a result she begins to see an increase in personal accountability, improved communications and a deepened sense of trust.  She helps her employees to feel the company’s vision. They begin to take ownership of its outcomes and they now have the desire and the discipline to be engaged and productive.

Throughout the world, these scenarios are occurring but unfortunately it is not the norm. Recently, I watched the latest version of Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp and I was reminded of the conversation the Cheshire Cat had with Alice after she fell down the rabbit hole – “Where are you going?” the Cat asked. Alice replied, “I don’t know.” The cat replied, “Then wherever you go, you will get there.”

That dialogue parallels our lives today. We are all running here and there – but do we know where we are going? Do our attitudes, behaviors and actions help us to engage in positive relationships? Do we stop, listen and look? Do we focus on strengths and build critical thinking and problem solving skills in ourselves and others? Do we focus on solutions that increase our connectivity and restore civility?

Many of us have been restorative practitioners long before we knew the term restorative practices. While we often worked in isolation, we always dreamed of a time when our voices could be joined with others who had like minds and hearts. We carried on even when we walked alone.

But one day, two visionaries – Susan and Ted Wachtel – took those dreams and turned them into a movement. Together, with committed practitioners from around the world, they are now making restorative practices and principles a platform for us to share best practices, to learn new skills, and to validate that restoring civility is truly the key to a future where everyone feels valued and adds value.

My time as a student at IIRP was rich and energizing yet I couldn’t help to wonder how many people were not taking advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow and engage because we lacked our accreditation. How many schools, businesses, and communities needed that “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” to take us seriously?

Because of the dedication, the discipline and the commitment of the self-study teams and others who labored tirelessly through each and every standard, we are here today to let everyone know – "This DREAM is NOW a reality!" We are here today to celebrate a wonderful journey.

Our accreditation is a validation that we are going in the right direction and it has opened the door for each of us and for a new era of enlightened and committed individuals, businesses, schools, communities, governments and countries to work “with” each other to be relationship-centered, strength-based and solution-focused.

This accreditation has added tremendous credibility to our work across all disciplines and I speak today not only for myself, but for my fellow alum and current students when I say thank you – to Susan and Ted, to all our passionate and dedicated professors, lecturers, trainers and supporters. Thank you for never giving up, for always believing that this dream could come to fruition.

As alumni, we are all excited about the potential and the possibilities that lay ahead – because we KNOW, that OUR work can revolutionize the social and emotional state of our modern world.

Today, we link arms to build a healthy, resilient, civil and thriving community. Our differences will be our strength: Our common denominator is our shared vision. May we all bloom where we are planted and may the winds carry our seeds to every community all across the globe.

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Read Part 2 with Dr. Joseph Brosnan's remarks here.

Read Part 3 IIRP President Ted Wachtel's remarks here.