Archive for the ‘Marg Thorsborne’ Tag

Author interview – Marg Thorsborne (part 2.)

In the second part of our author interview, Marg Thorsborne, co- author of the Restorative Justice Pocketbook talks about her work in the field of restorative practice and about the Restorative Justice Pocketbook.


Marg Thorsborne


Professionally, what has been your most satisfying or inspiring moment or achievement?

Two things really. When I have worked with people who have been at each other’s throats and stressed to the eyeballs – ie I have facilitated a workplace conference  – and those same people walk away having been given their lives back because they were willing to be honest with each other, to talk about the hurts and misunderstandings and to agree about a positive way forward. Exhausting work but nothing like it!

Secondly, to get an email from someone I have trained who tells their own story of a conference they facilitated where there were deeply powerful moments, people reaching out to each other, and the healing that has happened. So, in a distant kind of way, I have been able to touch their lives too. Making a difference is hard to top.

Your Pocketbook


Available from Teachers' Pocketbooks £7.99


What was the hardest thing about writing your Pocketbook? And the most satisfying?

Hardest parts were tailoring the text to the format; writing with my colleague Vinnie who was in Japan; trying to make it snappy and engaging without waffling! The best bit was finishing it! Oh, and the feedback we’re getting now about how much people love it! Makes the agony all worthwhile.

What did you learn in the process?

Yet again that I can write – I never see myself as an author – and that there is life in the old dog yet! How much I respect and admire my colleague Vinnie and hate that he is so far away. How useful the question “what outcomes are we after here?” is before leaping into a job, even if it is writing a book, or solving some other sort of problem

Which elements of your book have teachers found most helpful?

That it’s succinct – RP in a nutshell – and it’s an-easy-to-read introduction to the whole concept and what it might look like for the classroom teacher. I think it helps teachers to think about stuff they might not have before.

We do stress though that the serious end of the RP continuum needs to have people who have done some intensive training to pull off positive outcomes

Based on your Pocketbook, what are your top tips for teachers?

  • Work on connecting with kids, even if you don’t much like them – especially if you don’t like them. ‘Fake it till you make it’. If they value the relationship with you, they will be more likely to cooperate and comply with class expectations.
  • Make sure your behaviour is always respectful – and be prepared to acknowledge when you have messed up – apologise!
  • When your first instinct is to want to boil them in oil, calm down and ask yourself what outcome are you after – for the student, their classmates, their family and for you. Remember outcomes are NOT strategies. Strategies are what you use to reach an outcome and some strategies are not all that useful – especially the boil in oil variety!
  • Listen first. Hold the judgement. Find out what’s at the heart of the matter before deciding what to do. In Stephen Covey’s famous words – seek first to understand before being understood.
  • And work on repairing the relationship with the pupil or class when things have gone wrong, instead of focusing on blaming and punishing.

Professional development

What key attributes would you advise teachers new to the profession to acquire or nurture?

I think ‘newbies’ will always be grappling with the scope of the job. The learning curve for the first 4-5 years just from a curriculum/pedagogy perspective is huge and can be exhausting. I think knowing how to develop a relationship, maintain a relationship and repair a relationship are a vital parts of teaching, no matter what your disciplinary approach. How to be firm and fair kind of sums it up, but being a good, respectful listener lies at the heart of it.

To be prepared to be honest, authentic and human, knowing that there is a line between teacher and student that should not be crossed.

And be willing to ask for help!

What advice would you give to teachers who want to develop their expertise in restorative practice/justice/approaches?

Firstly, read widely about RP in schools! Read some more about best practice – especially around the critical connections between relationships and learning and whether or not punishment is effective.

Then embrace any decent CPD around circle time, positive classroom management strategies, facilitation of restorative processes such as class, small group and informal conferencing. Get to conferences – local, national and international and find out what other schools and sectors are doing with restorative justice. Join local networks of practitioners, and join the new membership organisation Restorative Practices International (RPI).

Do you have any website/ blog recommendations?

A lot of websites are marketing tools (mine included) designed to reach and engage prospective clients. If you can keep that in mind, then what’s written in them can be useful and some have some great resources. That being said, I think the following would be a good start:

A great example of school which has adopted the whole-of-school approach is Villanova College in Brisbane Australia. They have made available virtually all of their restorative resources for anyone to access. Check their material out on


What have you learnt recently that has contributed to your own professional development?

The area I am keen to pursue is learning more about the emotional aspects of this work and how that knowledge of our emotional being when things are good between us and when things go wrong can help us improve our practice. The Silvan S Tomkins Institute is very helpful in this regard. Check them out on

I’d also like to expand my understanding and expertise in using the family group decision-making process work in the school setting, to encourage some of our caregivers/parents to take greater responsibility in the parenting of their own children, so we can work together to pull those kids back from the brink.

What are you working on at the moment?

My colleague Peta Blood and I are writing a book on guidelines for implementation of RP in schools. There are already a couple of these (of varying quality) emerging in the market, but the more the better I say! And Pete and I have a lot of experience to call on – more than 20 years between us!

Where can our readers catch up with you in the future?

You’ll find me at my website, and directly via my email: I can promise I’ll answer your email, and in a timely fashion!

I can be found lurking in New Zealand, various Australian States, the UK once or twice a year and the same for the USA, doing lots of training. I hope I can catch you somewhere.

You will also find me at the next international RPI conference in New Zealand, late 2011. Start saving now and watch the website!

Many thanks to Marg for such thoughtful and detailed responsed to TP’s questions. New Zealand late 2011? Sounds good to us!

Author interview – Marg Thorsborne (part 1.)

In today’s blog, Marg Thorsborne, co-author of the Restorative Justice Pocketbook, tells us a little about herself, how she came to be involved in resorative practice (RP), the changes she has seen happen within this field over the years and how she sees restorative approaches developing in the coming years.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I grew up in a small rural town in western Queensland (dry and hot in summer and dry and freezing in winter!) The town did not have a high school at that point, so I went away to boarding school – I had a great time there  – except for being bullied by a Queen Bee one year! From there I went to University in Brisbane, to do a science degree with a major in physiology, followed by a diploma in education. I taught biology for many years and loved it and loved the kids, but knew that I didn’t want to be doing it for the rest of my career. That decision took me back to uni to do a post-graduate qualification in counselling. I met my future husband during this time and we managed to be transferred together as counsellors to sought-after placements on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland (a divine part of Oz with gorgeous beaches, mountains, restaurants and shopping). We’re still there. It’s heaven!

What was your first job?

Teaching biology and science in a private school for girls. I saved furiously then for my “OS” (overseas) experience and then lived and worked in London as an office temp. Great fun and a great experience. I have kept the friends I made back then and now see them as often as I can on trips to the UK for work. When I got back to Oz, I took up another teaching position – doing the same thing. Eventually though, I lost the passion for things biological and got more interested in things human! Hence the change to school counsellor.

How did that lead to where you are now, and to your interest in this subject/topic?

I worked for years in school counselling and the search for the most effective way to deal with bullying (helping the person harmed and also the person responsible) led me and a like-minded colleague  to think about a whole school approach to bullying prevention. We’d pretty much nailed the low level stuff, but were trying to develop a process for dealing with really serious cases. It was around then that we heard about the restorative conference process being used by police in another state to divert young offenders out of the court system. It was just what we were looking for – a non-punitive approach that held the young person directly accountable to the person s/he had harmed. It gave the victim a voice and engaged parents and school staff in the problem-solving. Manna from heaven! In 1995-96 I led the first trial of this process in Queensland schools in my region to determine whether it would work in a school setting and how effective it was in terms of substantive, procedural and emotional satisfaction. The evaluation was overwhelmingly positive and we have gone from there! But the journey since then is a very long story! And in that time, I had the great good fortune to meet and train David Vinegrad, my Pocketbook co-author with whom I’ve also written a series of RP (restorative practice) in Schools manuals

How have things changed in this field since you first became involved in it?

Despite how positive the results of the trial were, what we came to realise at the time is that you can’t graft a restorative process onto a tree that is basically at its heart punitive. So not much happened in the long term in those schools in the trial and they quickly snapped back to the way they had always done things! We realised then of course we were looking at whole of school culture change, trying to change the hearts and minds of teachers and senior managers, and that is a BIG job! But schools all over the world have grasped the essence of the philosophy and helped us develop a range of practices that can be applied to all levels of misbehaviour in schools, from minor stuff to truly serious.

These days, schools are choosing the RP way to improve a whole host of outcomes for kids across the age range. In some countries, at least, the restorative way is no longer on the periphery of things, but right bang smack in the middle – a social movement that recognises that relationships are at the heart of everything the school does. These schools are adopting a whole school approach to relationship management – we hear the language change and see the focus of problem-solving is based around accountabilities and fixing the problem. Data from RP schools is very compelling, both quantitatively (reduction in detentions, suspensions, referrals, truancy; improvements in engagement, retention, academic results, sense of safety and connectedness) and qualitatively, with schools reporting that things feel different.

And beyond schools there are now communities (cities even) that are striving for whole community approaches to RP – where schools, agencies, neighbourhood centres, police, the courts and families share the same vision of what it could look like if we built and rebuilt relationships. We might get the “village” back! ie people connected to each other, not distant, wellbeing actively pursued and problem solving that harnesses the best in each of us.

How do you see things developing in the next 5-10 years?

I think what we’ll see, as more schools embark on the journey, is a host of imaginative ways that the restorative philosophy can be applied. The changes in the last 5 years have been profoundly encouraging and I’m blown away by what good people in schools come up with. I am already seeing schools that recruit to leadership positions people who share values that are restorative at heart; I hear about staff applying to schools that have a great reputation for their strong focus on relationships.

What changes would you like to see?

What I’m hoping to see is more schools on board – more education authorities on board, more leadership in schools that recognises the importance of positive relationships and how that can contribute in very substantive ways to improved academic outcomes.

I’d like to see suspensions minimised, and schools held accountable for poor data but encouraged and supported to improve and choosing the RP approach as one of a variety of positive ways to do that.

I hope there will be more and more co-operation between the sectors that are focused on young people. Funding might be made available as governments recognise that prevention is worth investing in and they stop investing in more and more prisons!

Schools deliberately committing to peaceful problem solving!

In the second part of her interview (look out for this in two weeks’ time) Marg talks about professional development and training in RP, including the Restorative Justice Pocketbook, which is available at £7.99 + p&P from

Author interview – David Vinegrad (Part 2)

David Vinegrad

In the second part of our interview with David Vinegrad, he talks about writing the Restorative Justice Pocketbook and offers tips and advice for teachers looking to broaden their knowledge and understanding of restorative practice.

What was the hardest thing about writing the Restorative Justice Pocketbook? And the most satisfying?

The hardest thing was meeting deadlines for editing. I really admire authors who can churn out a good read.  Having a good editor as the critical friend and to crack the whip is essential.

The most satisfying thing was seeing the Pocketbook in print.  Very smart indeed!

Which elements of your book have teachers found most helpful?

The practical scenarios that use everyday classroom incidents to explain the social discipline window (pages 14-20).   Teachers have commented that this is where the ‘rubber meets the road’ and it has led them into exploring a lot more about teacher behaviour and our assumptions about what works.

The introduction is Marg [Marg Thorsborne, David’s co-author] at her best.   Teachers should read it several times as it provides the ‘justice’ bit.  It so nicely encapsulates why we do discipline the traditional way and why it is no one’s fault; it’s school culture and it is not healthy for minds and relationships young or old.

Based on your Pocketbook, what are your top tips for teachers?

  • Understand the difference between a friendship and a relationship with students
  • Model what you want and never be afraid to ask your students whether you are delivering
  • Be clear about the outcomes you want to achieve and that will dictate your strategy
  • Just remember that when everything has failed – you have had a row with your partner before leaving home; you have lost your classroom keys; the photocopier is jammed; your lesson preparation is back home on the table; you have just received an extra playground duty – all you will have to rely on is your relationship with your students.  You need to repair and nurture this daily and teach them how to do the same
  • Problem solve and build solutions with your students; they will always be your best resource.   It is exhausting trying to be the boss and miracle-worker.   Relax and work with the kids

What key attributes would you advise teachers new to the profession to acquire or nurture?

I like the International Baccalaureate’s Learner Profile that describes 10 attributes – caring, principled, balanced, inquirer, communicator, risk-taker, knowledgeable,  open- minded, thinker, and reflective.  There is a life time of work here!

Practice and apply ‘the restorative chat’ (pages 42-56 of Restorative Justice Pocketbook), the most powerful and persuasive way to ‘talk’ with students.

What advice would you give to teachers who want to develop their expertise in Restorative Justice?

  • Read widely, attend good professional workshops and don’t work in isolation
  • Practice and apply what is in your comfort zone, then get a little bit uncomfortable but never do harm!
  • Share and then share some more
  • Always be open and honest with your class about what you might be trying for the first time. They can spot a fake a mile away
  • Understand yourself first and explore what values and beliefs drive your own practice and attitudes
  • When you shift back into punitive mode forgive yourself quickly, apologise to the student/s and try again

Do you have any website/blog recommendations?

I always refer people to as it has a great collection of articles, conference papers and research on restorative practices.  You can also sign up to receive emails and new articles on a wide range of RJ topics.

What have you learnt recently that has contributed to your own professional development?

The importance of restorative leadership throughout all levels of school management (Marg is a leading light in this area).   Most teachers instead of a pay rise would prefer to have their working conditions improved.  Not just in terms of resources but in feeling valued, connected, respected, and having their work acknowledged.  How can leaders go about that?  Restoratively of course!  Focus on the relationships with and between staff and the impact is remarkable.

And finally, what are you working on at the moment?

I am currently trying to give birth to a manual/book that links the International Baccalaureate philosophy and framework to Restorative Practice.  The IB articulates virtues and values very clearly; RP has the potential to put all of it into practice.

Where can our readers catch up with you in the future?

As I am busy teaching full-time in Brazil, I won’t have the opportunity to spread my wings and visit conferences and events.  I can, though, be contacted at

Available from Teachers' Pocketbooks £7.99

Author interview – David Vinegrad (part 1)

David Vinegrad- Restorative Justice Pocketbook

In the first instalment of a two-part interview, David Vinegrad, joint author with Marg Thorsborne of the Restorative Justice Pocketbook, talks about how he came to be involved in restorative justice, changes he has seen in the field, and how he sees things developing in the future.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am an Australian, born and bred in the historical gold mining town of Ballarat.  I attended a public primary school and unfortunately was part of a group that bullied Bob Forest* mercilessly.  (Bob, if you are reading this I apologise for making your life a misery at primary school.)   I then attended an all boys public Technical School (in those days, High Schools were for the academically talented, Technical Schools were for the ‘others’).  Things were reversed as I was then at the bottom of the bullying food chain and felt intimidated for a lot of my time there.  It was a brutal school up to the moment when a student threw a brick through the Principal’s window resulting in the loss of an eye.  The Principal returned with a mission to clear out the trouble makers, so eventually I found my place and felt a lot safer. (It is interesting how our own school experiences influence our practice as teachers!).

I tried to study engineering but found out quickly that I had a learning disorder for maths and physics and instead went on to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education.  I had some fabulous years teaching PE in Melbourne and then headed back to Ballarat to teach Outdoor Education where I met my wife.  We took a break and worked and travelled around Australia before landing inTasmania where I taught math and science (of all things!) and then moved into student management.  Keen to have the skills to do a good job, I did a Masters in Counselling and Development.  After a few years it was back to Victoria to teach technology and coordinate the welfare program in a public school.  Then it was up stumps to join the international teaching mob in Japan.  Wonderful opportunities abound if you are interested in this sort of career.

Our current resting place is in São Paulo, Brazil teaching at an IB World School.  Some day we will return to Oz and drown some bait on the end of a fishing line at a golden beach.

(* Name changed)

How did you become interested and involved in restorative justice?

In Tasmania I was working in student management at a pretty tough school.  It felt like we had a revolving door at the front of the school with students coming in from suspension and stepping back out just as quickly.  I heard Marg Thorsborne on local radio being interviewed about Restorative Justice and just knew that was what we needed.  (If you always do what you have always done you will always get what you always got…never so true!)

So, along with the local community policeman with whom I worked closely, I arranged for Marg to come down and train a group of teachers and police in RJ.  I facilitated the first conference in Tasmania for some kids who came into the school with alcohol they had purchased from the local pub and caused mayhem…..Having Marg on the other end of the telephone line helped make the whole thing a great success.

I spent some time tinkering around implementing some RJ ideas in Tasmania and then Victoria.  It took me quite a while to understand how pervasive the philosophy is across all school operations and classroom life.  Marg then invited me to co-author our first training manual, and many years on we remain a dynamic restorative duo!

How have things changed in this field since you first became involved in it?

Initially, Restorative Justice was like a strange planet squillions of miles away in the Discipline galaxy.  Only enlightened schools were interested in travelling there.  There was strong interest from juvenile justice systems – and in other countries the take up was gaining momentum – but though several Australian schools were interested in RJ and agreed with the philosophy, for a range of reasons (mainly to do with upsetting the status quo) they were reluctant to implement RJ approaches

I was in Singapore at one stage and the head of a high-profile school asked, ‘Can we use Restorative Justice to heal the harm done to those students we have caned for their poor behaviour?’  In that situation, the complex mix of national and local community culture including parenting beliefs, and traditional school management culture were anchors stopping any change to punitive practice.

I liken this to when I started teaching Physical Education.  The approach was to apply traditional ‘grunt and puff’ push-ups and sit-ups and endless laps of the school oval in the belief that it was all about ‘no pain no gain’ and for some teachers maintaining class control was about being the fastest, strongest, tallest etc.  At the same time, there was abundant research about adolescent development and interesting concepts, such as ‘if you make it fun and engaging student participation and satisfaction will improve and you won’t find the usual suspects keeping the non-participants bench warm’.

What prevented me from taking notice of the researc was the same thing that stood in the way of schools taking up Restorative Justice.  At a personal level it wasn’t familiar enough for me to make the change: ‘when I was a student being forced to do PE that way didn’t do me any harm‘ (but, in fact, the question I now ask is what good did it do me?).  Some people want students to experience/suffer the same way they were taught….’bring back the basics’, etc…  I worked in schools that did not actively support risk-taking nor the implementation of evidence-based research.   There was also no teacher appraisal during my PE days so whether or not I was being effective and actually teaching anything was guesswork.

Nowadays, schools are keenly interested.   More schools across the whole education spectrum have a genuine interest and longer term commitment to what is truly a blueprint to put mission statements into practice.  Relationships are the core business of schools and it just makes plain sense that schools should be community leaders and activists in the area.  If there is one thread common to education, community and people being happy it is relationships.

How do you see things developing in the next 5-10 years?

Here in Brazil the local São Paulo newspaper recently ran a headline on bullying in schools.  Combine this with the work of people like Dominic Barter in the favelas (slums) and you have one example of how activists and the media can produce positive change and bring RJ further into the limelight.

Over the next few years more schools will move away from the ‘quick fix’ and the practice of hammering down a sticking-up nail.  Positive relationships based on good practice – not just RJ – and a healthy school culture make pupils and teachers happy.  (On the topic of happiness, the work of Marty Seligman and the field of Positive Psychology is gaining momentum in some schools and I see this growing.)

There is an increasing critical mass as more teachers learn about RJ and take it into their classrooms.  Some of these teachers will move into management positions and the practice will spread.  It will just take some time!

What changes would you like to see?

It would be fantastic for education to provide the time, money and support needed for all teachers to feel confident and poised to manage most problems that occur in their classrooms.  I would love to see schools stop being so busy.  Just stop, take stock and figure out what is important.   If relationships are important, and most school mission statements say this is the case, then do it properly.  If we say that students need to feel safe and secure then let’s do that.

I would like to see international schools getting involved in RJ.  With very few accountability measures (no district or regional office reviews here, folks) punitive practices are the norm.  Schools that deliver the International Baccalaureate Program have a huge advantage over non IB schools and the philosophy and practice of the 3 IB programs lend themselves beautifully to RJ philosophy.  I would like to see international schools take up RJ and align their relational practice (the behaviour stuff) to their academic practice.

Professionally, what has been your most satisfying or inspiring moment or achievement?

Firstly, I worked with a school that in my mind was a perfect RJ case study.  Marg Thorsborne and Peta Blood’s papers Embedding Restorative Practice in Schools and later Overcoming Resistance to the Whole School Uptake of RJ came to life with this school.  Because it was led by management who modelled the change and provided long-term resources, the school was turned around in months.  It was incredibly satisfying to provide the impetus for what was truly whole school change that was text book RJ implementation.

Secondly, I am always inspired by the simplest restorative chats with my students each day in my classroom.  Just talking with students about the missing homework or the mouthful of gum or the terrific poster they created provides the satisfaction that makes me want to stay in the classroom.

Next time, David talks about writing the Restorative Justice Pocketbook and offers tips and advice for teachers looking to broaden their knowledge and understanding of restorative practice. Look out for his website and resource recommendations. In the meantime, the Restorative Justice Pocketbook is available from Teachers’ Pocketbooks ( at £7.99

Available from Teachers' Pocketbooks £7.99

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