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Relationship with Institutions

It is easy to think of institutions and the policies within as fixed structures. Many students and educators feel as though they must adjust their thoughts and values to align with those of their institution. As powerful as they may seem, institutions are not immovable objects. Our institutions and policies were created by people, and by people they can be changed!

We are all engaged in a relationship with the institutions that we work within and the policies that guide them. Take a moment to really think about your relationship with schools.

  • Do you feel honoured by that institution?

  • Do you feel measured?

  • What messages do the school policies send you?


If you do not feel honoured, if you feel measured, perhaps it is time to work on your relationship with schools. All human beings are worthy and interconnected. If our institutions do not reflect this belief, that can be changed. Just as we work on our relationships with others, we can work on our relationships with the institutions that we live within. To do this, we engage in dialogue with institutions just as we would with people.

If you felt excluded by a friend, a healthy way to deal with this hurt (after we have identified what is happening internally –see relationships with self) would be to talk with your friend to share your concerns and work towards a solution. In relationships with people, we have the expectation for change when harm has been caused. We can approach our schools in the same manner. Institutions were created to serve the people; as such our relationship with institutions should reflect that. When policies cause harm, the expectation is that they be changed.

Policies are created by people working for institutions. Oftentimes the intent of these policies is not received as intended. Just as conversing with other people can lead to miscommunication, policies can similarly go awry.

Imagine a school which intends to curb tardiness by instituting detention for late arrivals.

  • What is the intended message of this policy?

  • Would you expect students to receive the intended message accurately?

  • What unintended messages might be sent by instituting this policy?


Our policies can situate us in a relationship of power imbalance which leads to resentment. Since people created bureaucracies, people are needed to change bureaucracies. We should take the time to carefully review our policies and make space for discourse which will ensure we are creating a healthy relationship between the institution and those that are expected to live with the institution.

The ideas expressed here are simply beginning ideas for understanding the different relationships we have with our self and others. Relationships are very complex and many of the intricacies that make up our relationships require deep personal reflection to be understood. This can be accomplished through work with restorative justice.

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