The Finnish Blueprint: Maija Gellin’s Vision of a Restorative School Culture

In an enthralling presentation, Maija Gellin, with her vast credentials, offered a glimpse into the intricate tapestry of the Finnish education system’s restorative approach. Gellin, with her rich academic background – a PhD, MA in Education, BA in Youth Work – and two decades of experience spearheading the VERSO-programme in Finland, is undoubtedly an authority on the topic. Beyond her directorial role, Gellin’s engagement in various research groups, her association with the Finnish Forum for Mediation, and her contributions to several influential publications make her insights invaluable.

Her presentation titled “Creating a relational and restorative school” touched upon the essence of what it truly means to embed a restorative culture within schools. For Gellin, it is not merely about adopting evidence-based practices; it encompasses the right attitude and mindset. She argued that the transformation of the school culture in its entirety should be the objective, as opposed to isolated practices aimed at specific issues like bullying.

Finland, a nation celebrated for its high-quality education system, democratic pedagogical approach, and remarkably trained teachers, has integrated the restorative approach into its schools since 2001. Given this background, Gellin’s presentation revolved around the Finnish perspective on restorative school culture. What does it really look like? What components have been deemed essential to sustain such a culture? And how do schools ensure their practices remain truly restorative?

Using her own dissertation as a pivotal reference, Gellin delved into the nuances of restorative encounters. She elaborated on how these encounters, when facilitated correctly, foster mutual respect, understanding, and growth. These are not mere interactions; they are, in essence, profound moments of connection, understanding, and restoration.

One of the standout sections of her presentation was the real-world insight into how school staff members have woven the restorative approach into their daily operations. Drawing from her extensive research and firsthand experiences, Gellin underscored the key factors that enable schools to maintain this culture. Her candid discussion on the challenges schools face in this journey was equally enlightening, shedding light on the practical hurdles and potential solutions.

In conclusion, Maija Gellin’s presentation was more than just a discourse on an educational approach; it was a call to action for educational institutions globally. It underscored the need to shift from punitive to restorative, from isolated practices to holistic cultural transformations. As schools worldwide grapple with myriad challenges, Gellin’s Finnish blueprint offers a promising path – one where respect, mutual understanding, and holistic well-being are at the heart of education.