Embracing Restorative Approaches: A Journey of Idealism and Change

In a thought-provoking presentation, Dr. Belinda Hopkins, a renowned pioneer in restorative approaches within the education system, shared her experiences and insights with an eager audience. Titled “Embrace Your Weirdness and Idealism,” the talk aimed to inspire those starting out on their own journey towards implementing restorative practices.

Dr. Hopkins began by reflecting on her early years as a teacher in the 1980s and 90s when she was considered an oddity for promoting peace and democracy in her classroom. Undeterred by societal norms, she embraced her idealistic nature wholeheartedly. This resilience served as valuable advice for newcomers – grow some thick skin but remain open to understanding the underlying fears and unmet needs that hinder change.

As both a restorative practitioner and storyteller, Dr. Hopkins captivated the audience with true stories from her vast experience. Each anecdote carried important lessons learned along the way, offering fresh perspectives to those embarking on this transformative path. She emphasized that newcomers have much to teach even seasoned professionals like herself who have been immersed in this field for decades.

Belinda’s contributions to restorative justice are significant; she founded Transforming Conflict, which has become one of Europe’s leading providers of training and consultancy services in restorative approaches for youth and community settings since its establishment during late 90s-early 2000s. Her books ‘Just Schools,’ ‘Just Care,’ and ‘The Restorative Classroom’ have inspired countless individuals worldwide.

Over time, Belinda’s model for both restorative practice implementation and systemic change has evolved through inspiration drawn from various countries such as Nonviolent Communication (NVC) techniques or Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP). Additionally, conflict transformation strategies alongside transformative mediation principles have shaped her approach significantly while incorporating trauma-informed practices rooted in attachment theory.

Belinda firmly believes that restorative justice contributes to social justice, aligning with writers who advocate for addressing systemic and cultural violence within schools through restorative practices. Her dedication extends beyond the classroom as she currently serves as Chair of the European Forum for Restorative Justice (EFRJ) Schools Working Group, actively participating in the Training Committee and facilitating Trainers’ Network meetings.

In light of her concerns regarding climate change, Belinda has made a conscious decision to avoid air travel whenever possible. Consequently, her work is now limited to Europe. However, this limitation hasn’t hindered her passion or commitment; instead, it has led her on long epic train journeys across countries like Poland, Estonia, Slovenia, and Ukraine.

Dr. Belinda Hopkins’ presentation left attendees feeling inspired and motivated to embrace their own weirdness and idealism when embarking on their journey towards implementing restorative approaches. With each step forward into uncharted territory comes an opportunity for growth and learning from both successes and challenges along the way. As Dr. Hopkins aptly stated during her talk – “You who are new to this work have so much to teach those of us who have grown old in the field!”