Revolutionizing Education: The Power of Relational Practices in Schools

In a recent presentation titled “Keeping the Vision of Relational Schools,” Daniel O’Brien, an Assistant Principal at a New Zealand single-sex boys secondary school, shared his insights on the importance of building strong relationships within the school community. Drawing from his experience as a teacher for nearly 15 years and his current role leading restorative approaches, O’Brien emphasized how these relationships are crucial for creating a positive school environment and ultimately contributing to the success of students.

O’Brien’s journey towards understanding the power of relational practices began when he joined a restorative practices secondary school. It was here that he witnessed firsthand how committed and intentional relationship-building can revolutionize not only the way a school operates but also its overall outcomes. Inspired by this transformative experience, O’Brien is currently pursuing his Masters of Educational Studies with a focus on leadership, relationships, and working with students who have experienced trauma.

During his presentation, O’Brien highlighted three key areas that contribute to maintaining relational schools. Firstly, he stressed the importance of staff engagement in restorative practices. By involving teachers in restorative conferences and providing them with professional development opportunities, schools can ensure that all staff members are invested in fostering positive relationships within their classrooms.

Secondly, O’Brien emphasized the significance of prioritizing connections before content in the classroom. By focusing on building meaningful relationships with students first and foremost, educators create an environment where learning becomes more engaging and effective.

Lastly, O’Brien discussed how important it is to build strong relationships (whanaungatanga) specifically with students who have experienced trauma or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). These individuals often require additional support and understanding from their teachers to thrive academically and emotionally.

Throughout his presentation, O’Brien provided valuable insights into sustaining relational capacities within schools amidst increasing pressures for academic achievement. He acknowledged that while academic improvements remain essential goals for any educational institution striving for excellence, relationships should always remain at the heart of all success.

One of the key takeaways from O’Brien’s presentation was how traditional models of education for boys can successfully incorporate restorative practices. By adopting a relational mindset and prioritizing building strong connections with students, even single-sex boys schools can create inclusive and supportive learning environments.

In conclusion, Daniel O’Brien’s presentation shed light on the power of relational practices in schools. Through his own experiences and expertise, he highlighted the importance of staff engagement, connections before content in the classroom, and building relationships with students who have experienced trauma or ACEs. As educators continue to navigate an ever-changing educational landscape, it is crucial to recognize that investing time and effort into fostering positive relationships within school communities is fundamental to achieving long-lasting success for both teachers and students alike.