Trust among participants is a basic requirement for authentic communication in circle. How can a circle keeper support the group in going deeper? Read more as Amos Clifford describes a "Deepening Circle" that can be adapted to almost any group process, with children or adults, especially in the delicate stages of building trust.
Respect can be a surprisingly difficult topic to explore in a circle. In this post we’re going to share an easy way to engage students in some critical thinking about respect.
I’ve noticed two challenges in exploring respect in a circle. One is that the word means different things in different contexts. For example, as used within gangs and prison culture, respect goes to those who are most feared due to their capacity for inflicting violence on others. This idea of respect comes up even among school children who are apparently far removed from gang culture. Perhaps this is a reflection of the abundant revenge stories portrayed by popular media. In many films the hero earns the respect of the audience (and, in the story, self-respect as well) by destroying evil others in vividly violent ways.
Another challenge is that it is inherently difficult for younger students, like our group of sixth grade boys, to define abstract terms like "respect."
If you provide a circle prompt like, “What does respect mean to you?” it’s been my experience that many students give recursive answers that do little to clarify: “It’s like when someone, you know, respects you.”
The same applies to the question, “What is self-respect?” Students may respond, “It’s when you respect yourself.” They are searching for words, but the challenge is just beyond their capacity.
In our circle today we tried a different approach that worked very well. The circle included two leaders and 10 sixth grade boys. The boys had each participated in about a dozen prior circles and had all developed some fluency in circle participation, such as knowing and following the guidelines and respecting the talking piece. Following a brief check-in round with an update on how things have been during soccer games, the circle went as follows:
Fishbowl round: The two circle keepers, a man and woman, went to the center for a two-person circle. The prompt was, “In our work together, do you feel respected by me?” We did two rounds with this, engaging in an authentic dialogue that touched on some important issues. The students were very engaged in listening to us. It is a sad truth that many students never have an opportunity to observe and listen to two adults engaged in respectful dialogue. In my experience, they find it quite fascinating—as long as it is truly authentic, and doesn’t go on for too long.
Part of our agenda with the fishbowl round was to model respect between genders and also between generations. I am an elder man and my co-facilitator is a younger woman; this cross-generational co-facilitation strategy is intentional.
Here’s the clever prompt you’ve been waiting for. We asked the boys, “Who deserves more respect, a dog or a cat? Why?”
The boys were eager to answer this question, and were immediately as engaged as we had ever seen them in circle.
By describing why they thought one or other deserved more respect, they listed the qualities that are foundations of respect: loyalty, self-care, obedience, strength, intelligence, and so on.
The boys were unanimous in the opinion that dogs deserved more respect than cats. They had clear rationales for why. Surprisingly, it was not so much about the strength of dogs as it was about their loyalty. We decided to explore further with another round, offering a twist.
The prompt for the second round was: “Who has more self-respect, a dog or a cat?” Again, the boys were quite engaged. This time however the opinions were more diverse. Indicators of self-respect that the boys felt were specific to cats were heightened attention to self-care, the fact that they bury their feces, and they choose for themselves what to do instead of following commands of people.
Between these two rounds we had a lively and nuanced discussion about the qualities that define respect and self-respect.
Taking it Deeper
Setting the talking piece aside, I shared that there were other ways I might have asked the respect question, for example: “Men or women?” The boys discussed this for a while and agreed: “Both, but women slightly more than men because they are stronger and we depend on them, and they bring us into the world.” “Olders or Youngers?” “Both, but in different ways.”
This led to a discussion of why the question had to be “Who deserves more?” Why should we look at the issue of respect as a binary, “this or that” “either or” question? It became clear that while it may help to begin with a binary choice, if the circle is supporting deeper learning it will eventually move beyond that framework.
The boys began to see that respect is a nuanced quality, and that everyone and everything is inherently deserving of respect, perhaps of different types and different measures depending on circumstances.
Our hope is that these insights carry over into their efforts to understand themselves, to define what qualities they want to embody, and to act upon those considerations.
After 45 minutes we came to a good closure. We checked with boys on how the circle was for them, and they were unanimous again that it was very interesting and worthwhile
Notes on my internal process as a circle leader:
The “dogs vs. cats” idea came spontaneously; it was not pre-planned. I was very happy that it worked well. It generally works well for me when I trust ideas that arise spontaneously, and modify my circle lesson plan if the new ideas feel like a better fit for the moment. Circles must be responsive to what is real and actually in the field, or they will not feel authentic.
Quite a few ideas about other binary choices occurred to me. I filtered many out because of potential parental or teacher sensitivities that could lead to conflicts among adults in the community. I assume that anything we cover in circle is going to be reported by at least one student to an adult in their life, often in a garbled, out-of-context way. The topics I filtered out are important and could, in the right setting, be a basis for circle dialogues that support significant social learning and development of moral reasoning. However, these potentials do not outweigh the requirements that as circle leaders, especially from an outside agency, we be sensitive to and respectful of the social and political realities of the school, the district and its community, and the culture as a whole. Three examples of binary choices I would NOT use in this circle, given the times we are in:
Who deserves more respect…
· Republicans or democrats?
· Wealthy people or poor people?
· Christians or Muslims?
I hope this report is helpful to you. Please share your thoughts in the comments. What are some ways you might explore the concept of "respect" with your classroom?
The following report is a follow-up from last week's Soccer Conflict Response Circle including a new and unexpected incident. If you missed Part 1, it is available Here.
Note: Our Feb 12th, 2016's "Five Frameworks of Restorative Practices" Training is coming up in the San Francisco Bay Area! Click for More Info
Following Up From Last Week's Soccer Conflict
Warming up to the circle: We began by playing a game called “Head Honcho.” It is a fun, fast-paced game where leadership passes from student to student. All of the students were very engaged in it. After about 10 rounds (taking about 12 minutes total) the RP consultant focused the circle with the question, “What made that game work?” Students responded via show of hands: “We cooperated;” “We followed the rules,” “There was no arguing,” and so on. These two activities (the game and sharing) served as the connection round for the circle.
The RP Consultant gave a bit of orientation to what had happened already (Wednesday’s circle) and also to the guidelines, with an emphasis on lean expression because of the group size. One of the boys had brought along the same talking piece that was used in Wednesday’s circle: a small hardened clay ocarina (a type of instrument that is played like a whistle and has four or five notes). The ocarina belongs to a teacher and is used by one of the sixth grade classes for their circles.
Round 1: Say something about yesterday’s game; how was it for you? This continued connection while also serving as an introductory content round. All the boys who had played soccer the day before were positive about the game. Some of the descriptions used were, “Competitive”, “Fun,” and “Fair.”
Round 2: The boys who were in Wednesday’s circle came into the center to form a fishbowl circle (a circle inside a circle). The other boys moved in closer so they could hear the boys in the center. The RP consultant oriented the outer circle by saying their role as listeners was important and they would have an opportunity ask questions and make comments after the inner circle shared.
The question for this circle was, “What made yesterday’s game more fun than the games before our Wednesday Circle?” The boys shared what agreements they kept. Notably, besides keeping the two formal agreements, they also named ideas that they had brainstormed but they didn’t formally agree to. For example, a couple of boys mentioned shaking hands at the end of the game.
After this round, while staying in the fishbowl configuration, students in the outer circle were invited to comment. The general gist of the comments was agreement with the boys in the circle.
All of the boys were very attentive and focused, including those in the outer circle. The RP Consultant asked the inner circle this question:
" Sometimes when we do circles in class they don’t go nearly as well as this one, and the one on Wednesday. What do you think makes this circle different?”
The RP Consultant suggested that they could be thinking about good questions for their classroom circles, and that he would ask for students to volunteer as co-leaders in upcoming circles. The rationale for this somewhat tangential exchange was to use the effective circle as a teachable moment to help students increase their own circle fluency.
Round 3: The boys moved back into one big circle. The RP consultant asked if anyone had something they would like to add, and called on those who raised their hands. There was good discussion. One of the points that emerged was that many students appreciated having an adult (the Student Engagement Specialist) help with random team assignments and with refereeing. The RP Consultant reminded the group that there had been some talk on Wednesday about forming a referee club or circle for students who wanted to try that role. About 8 students volunteered to participate. This took about 10 minutes.
At this point the circle had lasted about 40 minutes and the RP consultant wanted to bring it to an end. He asked if the boys thought it would be valuable to meet in circle again, for the purpose of checking in on how the soccer games were going. The response was unanimous; they would like have more circles.
This is an example of how a “live” issue can become a foundation for ongoing circles, and an opportunity to begin embedding circles in school culture.
We closed the circle by clapping as a group.
The Post-Circle Incident
The boys rose out of their chairs with the boisterous energy of a bunch of sixth-graders. The talking piece had ended up in the hands of a boy from a class other than the one where it belonged. He called to a boy in that class and tossed the little clay ocarina. It was not caught and fell to the floor, breaking into pieces. It was clear from his facial expression that he felt terrible about this. The boys all returned to their classes, and the Student Engagement Specialist gathered the pieces of the ocarina.
The Student Engagement Specialist and RP consultant went together to the boy’s classroom. His teacher was already aware of the incident. We asked if we could do a quick standing circle with him. A standing circle is a kind of impromptu circle that can sometimes be done in just a few minutes. In this incident it was seen as an opportunity for the boy to work though his shame and proactively take action to make things right with the teacher and the class to whom the ocarina belonged. The setting was on a small porch just outside the door of the classroom, in a mild drizzle under a gray sky.
We began by empathically saying he probably felt terrible about it. He confirmed with words, posture, and facial expression that this was indeed the case. The RP Consultant asked him if we would participate in a little circle right now, with the just three people present, by answering some questions that might be helpful to him and the situation. He agreed. The RP consultant asked these questions:
In regards to the fourth question, the boy suggested that he make an apology to the class that owned the ocarina (the teacher was not present, the class had a substitute). “Do you want to go do that right now? We’ll go with you,” the RP consultant offered. The boy said he felt too shy to go talk to the class and he preferred to write a letter. We called his teacher out of the class for a moment to confer about this and she agreed to assign him to write his letter immediately, and to support him and the process by reading the letter over and making sure it was an actual apology, and that it would be delivered in a good way.
This concluded the circle.
While driving away from the site RP Consultant reflected on the process and realized that he had omitted the question about who was affected and how, and also that his preference would be to have the boy give the class a replacement talking piece. Perhaps the boy’s class would cooperate in creating a talking piece, and it could be given by his class, with him making the delivery. It is worth wondering if this might have come up in the circle if the forgotten question had been asked.
How might restorative practices benefit your school culture? If you'd like to learn more about bringing restorative practices into your classroom or school, our introductory training is coming up. We'd love to see you in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA for:
"Five Frameworks of Restorative Process"
M. Amos Clifford
M. Amos Clifford
This paper describes three circles that took place in a three-day period at an elementary school campus in California. It is a narrative history told from my perspective of the circles. But it is also a story of what it is like to work with restorative circles. I have never participated in a circle without learning something new. The story below includes my view of what happened, of what I was thinking, and of some of my reflections on the process. While there is a general framework for leading circles, each one is unique and circle leadership, like art, is a process of improvisational creativity within the framework of restorative principles and circle techniques.
This story is offered with the intention that it may serve to inspire and instruct other circle leaders; but also that it might help to loosen too-tight grips on illusory notions of circle perfection, and of restorative practices omnipotence. The circles went well, but not perfectly. It is in the imperfections that the learning opportunities exist.
Sixth grade students who are soccer enthusiasts organize daily games on the playground. At first it is fun but as the weeks and months go by it becomes less fun for everyone. With no referee, games often involve long delays while teams argue over if a goal was valid or not, or who has possession of the ball after it is kicked out of bounds, and similar issues. This leads to name-calling. Lately the name-calling has started including racial slurs. There is lingering hostility after the game ends, and this has been affecting classroom climate. The trend has been toward an increase in troublesome behavior spilling over from soccer games.
Choosing teams is a challenge. There are a couple of boys who are very passionate about soccer and quite skilled; everybody wants to be on their team. Over time a losing team and a winning team have evolved. Kids on the losing team feel that it is not fair. Kids on the winning team don’t want to change things.
Wednesday Morning: The First Circle
After one of the sixth-grade teachers explained her take on the situation to a restorative practices consultant, the consultant offered to hold a circle with the boys involved in the soccer disputes. A date was set for a week later. The meeting would be held at 1:15.
The RP consultant arrived at 11:15, a bit confused about how to proceed. A lucky encounter in the office led to a planning meeting with a Student Engagement Specialist who had several days of training in restorative circles. Together, the Student Engagement Specialist and the RP consultant visited each of the three 6th grade classrooms and spoke with the teachers. They also met for 30 minutes with the principal. These meetings served to gather information and clarify what approach to use. The plan that emerged was:
A circle, as previously planned, at 1:15 on Wednesday, co-led by the Student Engagement Specialist and the consultant. Instead of including every student who plays soccer, this circle would include 8 boys who were identified by teachers, the principal, and Student Engagement Specialist as the most influential in regards to the behaviors of concern. The aim of this circle would be to support the students to come up with one or two agreements.
The next day the sixth grade soccer recess game would be held as usual. This would be a field test of the agreements made. The day after that, on Friday, there would be a larger circle involving more students who play soccer. The consultant envisioned a fishbowl-style circle, with the Wednesday group in the center and the others around the periphery. The Wednesday group would evaluate how well they kept their agreements. The outer circle would be invited to make comments and suggestions.
The circle commenced at 1:20 on Wednesday afternoon. There were nine boys and one girl in the circle, along with the Student Engagement Specialist and the consultant. The consultant prepared a list of questions for the circle adapted and condensed from the standard restorative questions. They were printed out and a copy given to each student:
The consultant opened the circle with a brief overview of its purpose. Of the 10 students present four had prior circle experience. When invited, they were able to remember the guidelines. One of them provided a talking piece.
Round 1: What do you love about soccer? Give an example from a recent game. The first round was brief and gave each student a chance to connect to what they liked about soccer, and also to connect with the group around shared values (they all liked pretty much the same things: fun, challenge, winning).
Round 2: What problems do you see in how you play soccer together? The students were very open about the problems they saw in the games. After all students had shared the RP consultant stood at the nearby whiteboard and asked the group to help remember the problems they had shared so they could be written down. The consultant recorded ideas until the group agreed that the list was complete.
There was a poignant moment during this round. When the talking piece came to the only girl in the group she held it quietly. Her posture and facial expression gave the impression of deep thoughtfulness and inner conflict. After a few moments she sighed audibly; the RP consultant had the distinct impression that she had come to a decision. She shared her perspective on the problems; but what she shared was not substantially different than what the boys who had spoken before her had shared. Again, a distinct impression: she had made a decision to withhold at least some of what she thought. This is often an indicator of wisdom; what she had considered saying may have been something that would be particularly vulnerable or that would surface issues leading to deeper conflicts. The RP consultant made a mental note to follow-up later, beginning with sharing his observation with the principal.
Round 3: What can you do personally to help make things better? In this round each student had at least one idea about how to make positive changes. At the end of the round these were written in a separate list (using a different color) on the whiteboard. Now the whiteboard included two lists: problems and solutions.
Round 4: Can we make some agreements that will help make things better for everyone? What ideas do you have? This question was done as a group discussion instead of using the talking piece. By now the circle had normed on listening when someone was speaking, and everyone was authentically engaged in the discussion.
Among the topics that were discussed was the role of referees and their importance to the game. Some of the students said the problem with referees was they sometimes made bad calls. This led to a discussion of how games would go without referees. When asked, “How would a match between two professional teams go if there were no referees?” the immediate answer was, “Chaos!”
The consultant had the impression that this was an important discussion that could support moral reasoning and development. It is an example of how conflict can become a learning opportunity, when conversations about the conflict are facilitated so everyone’s voice can be heard.
Another topic discussed was about procedures for choosing teams. One student remembered a system he had experienced with baseball, choosing markers from a box so that players were randomly assigned to teams. There was a lot of back-and-forth on this, including concerns about the best players winding up on the same team. The adults in the room offered an explanation that the nature of random selection would be that on some days there would be an unfair distribution but overall that would be evened out, so long as random assignments were made daily. It seemed that most of the students got the basic gist of this. The consultant’s impression was that this would be a great opportunity to teach some statistical reasoning around random assignment.
Another issue raised was that students would sometimes find themselves on teams with other students who they were in conflict with or didn’t like because of previous bad experiences. During this discussion the possibility emerged that perhaps even students who didn’t like each other could learn how to get along.
After about 15 minutes of discussion the consultant gave each student three post-it notes. They went to the list of ideas about agreements on the whiteboard; each used their post-its to make three votes. They were allowed to distribute their votes in any way they wished, including voting three times for one idea if they wanted. They accomplished this task very harmoniously.
Two agreements emerged as top vote-getters. After further discussion the group agreed that:
Closing Round: The circle ended with a closing round in which students were invited to share how the circle was for them. They were unanimous that it was useful, that good ideas were shared, and that they listened to each other very well.
Will the agreements stick? What can we learn from this experience?
To Be Continued... Stay tuned for Part Two coming soon.
If you'd like to learn more about bringing restorative practices into your classroom or school, our introductory training is coming up. We'd love to see you in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA:
"Five Frameworks of Restorative Process" (1 Day Workshop)
M. Amos Clifford
Are you dreaming of a peaceful classroom this Christmas? The week before holiday break can sometimes be a difficult time for classroom management. With the semester coming to an end and the holidays approaching, it's not a surprise to find students bursting with energy and pent-up feelings.
At Restorative Process, we find that the best classroom processes are those that are real and relevant to the kids. So whether your students are bouncing off the walls with anticipation (or hyped up on candy canes), feeling sad about being away from friends, or perhaps even stressed about home and family challenges, this is a classroom circle for exactly the season.
Many of our 4th and 6th graders said that this was their favorite circle we've done all semester and we noticed that even some of our more self-conscious students were engaged and sharing in this high-energy circle.
Try it out and let us know how it goes!
What you'll need:
Step 1) Prepare the Circle
Prior to beginning, set up the chairs in a circle formation and obtain an item you will use as a talking piece.
Step 2) Introduce (or Refresh on) Circle Guidelines
If your class is new to circles, you'll want to begin with a more complete introduction to the four circle guidelines and basic agreements (quick walk-through available Here or download the training manual for the full circle curriculum Here). If your class is experienced, a brief reminder about the talking piece and "listening from the heart" will usually suffice.
Step 3) Ice-Breaker Game, "The Wind Blows"
Step 4) "Rose and Thorn" Discussion About Holiday Break
Now that the class is warmed up, we'll begin a round with the talking piece. For this two-part prompt, students will each share both a "rose" and a "thorn." Ask the students to close their eyes and think about the following questions:
When everyone has shared, do a second round only for the students who "passed," asking if anything has come to them now that they'd like to contribute (if they still wish to pass that is okay, but many students will participate when given a second chance).
OPTIONAL: To further the sense of community in the discussion (and also create a neat visual), today we talked about the image of a rose garden full of many different types of roses. We all brought unique "roses" to the circles and some were even similar. Ask the students what common themes they noticed in some of our "roses."
Student (raised hand): Lots of us are excited about time with family.
Facilitator: Good point. So maybe we have some roses for the theme of "family" here, let's say red ones. What other themes?
Student (raised hand): 4 of us shared that we have birthdays over the break.
Facilitator: Great observation. So let's pretend we have 4 yellow roses in our garden for the theme of "birthdays."
Do the same thing for "thorns" letting the students point out some common themes they noticed among everyone's challenges (i.e., "a lot of us miss our friends," or "we get in fights with our siblings," or "some of us don't like buying presents," or "we get sad if we don't get what our friends got."). You may wish to also make a comment that some students shared things uniquely their own, which is a wonderful contribution, too.
Step 5) Full Circle Check-In
With the talking piece, ask each student to share how they think that went using 3-5 words.
OPTIONAL: If students share challenges (i.e., people were talking while I talked), you can ask the circle "how many people noticed that or felt that way?"
If this is a more experienced circle and you have extra time, you can explore a bit: "what ideas do you guys have for ways we might make that better next time?" or "what agreements might we want to put in place?" (i.e., "the only person who can talk is the one with the talking piece.") Depending on time, you may or may not wish to actually vote on a new agreement. (See Handbook Chapter on Agreement-Setting) The comments alone are a great way to get students thinking about how their behavior affects others and practice expressing those concerns honestly.
When everyone has had a chance to share, be sure to reiterate the positives you and the class noticed.
Step 8) Close with Pass-the-Clap
For a fun, quick closing activity, ask the students to hover their hands slightly to the side with their left palm facing up and their right hand facing down. Put your left hand underneath the person to your left's and your right hand directly over the person to your right's. You will start by clapping your right hand down on the person to your right's. On that cue, the person to your right will do the same, "passing the clap" one at a time counter-clockwise. Each time someone's left hand gets clapped, they simply clap hands once with the person to the right.
When the clap makes it all the way around the circle, the entire circle will do one big final clap together at once. Thank the class for their participation.
Step 9) Passing Leadership Back to the Teacher
If you are a facilitator, this is an important time to formally pass the leadership back to the teacher so they can direct the class to their next activity. If you are the teacher, you can simply transition the class using whatever classroom management routines you normally use.
+Optional) Integrating Assignment
Over break, ask the students to draw a picture of a rose that represents their experience over the holiday -- with both its positives and negatives. They may wish to write a few sentences explaining the positives and negatives. If you'd like, you can even hang the roses on the wall as a "community garden."
If you'd like to learn more about bringing restorative practices into your classroom or school, our introductory training is coming up! We'd love to see you in January in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA.
Hope you and your students enjoyed this circle and wishing you a wonderful break.
Want to help your students transition back together smoothly after the long Thanksgiving break?
Here is a post-Thanksgiving circle we found very successful this week in 4th and 6th grade classrooms.
We noticed that this is a great circle for deepening relationship-building and trust amongst the group, as well as rebuilding a sense of community after being apart for vacation. We were impressed to find that students were very focused and attentive for this particular circle (they especially loved the ice breaker game, shown below!).
What you'll need:
Step 1) Prepare the Circle
Prior to beginning, set up the chairs in a circle formation and obtain an item you will use as a talking piece.
Step 2) Introduce (or Refresh on) the Circle Guidelines
At the start of any circle, it can be helpful to make sure everyone is clear on circle guidelines. Even if your students are familiar with circles, briefly refreshing their memory is always a good idea. If you're unsure, you may wish to ask the students if they've ever sat in circle like this, to get an idea of their level of experience. (One particular student of ours, for instance, shared a great story of how he sits in circles with his family).
>INTRO FOR A FIRST TIME CIRCLE. If this is most of their first time, begin by introducing the following concepts...
Step 3) Ice-Breaker Game "Guess The Leader"
Ask the students to repeat after you. Start demonstrating three different hand motions: 1) clapping your hands, 2) snapping your fingers, and 3) patting your thighs. For this game, one person will close their eyes in the center of the circle while one other student is quietly chosen as the "leader," unbeknownst to the center student (make sure center student isn't peeking!). When you say go, the leader will begin making a song with the three hand motions in whatever order they want, changing them up frequently, as the rest of the circle copies what they're doing. It is the center student's job to open their eyes and try to guess who is leading the music. They have three guesses to identify the leader. If they succeed, they now go to the center of the circle. Do two or three rounds of this.
Step 4) First Prompt: Favorite Thanksgiving Break Moments
Now that the class is warmed up, we'll begin a round with the talking piece. Since the class has recently been on Thanksgiving break, offer up the prompt:
"Tell us about a favorite moment that you remember from your Thanksgiving break. It doesn't have to be from Thanksgiving day, it could be anything at all." Ask who would like to go first and let them begin with the talking piece, sharing a story of their choice, then passing the piece clockwise. When everyone has shared, do a second round only for the students who "passed," asking if anything has come to them now that they'd like to contribute (if they still wish to pass that is okay, but many students will participate when given a second chance).
Step 5) Full Circle Check-In
Ask the class how they think that went using the talking piece (have students raise their hands and call on people to share what they noticed went well and things that were challenging). Ask students to use the Thumbs-Up Method to show how well they felt listened to when they were talking: if there thumb is pointing up, it went great. If they point to the side it was so-so. If they point down, then not so well.
Step 6) Second Prompt: What are We Grateful For?
Now, do a second circle (you may wish to remind students to practice any new behaviors that were brought up -- i.e., we're going to practice projecting our voices louder this time when we have the talking piece so we can all hear each other). In the spirit of this season, offer the prompt, "tell us something you're grateful for," and ask who would like to begin with the talking piece. Follow the same procedure above, doing a second round for any students who passed.
Step 7) "Fish Bowl" Check In With Adults and Students
For one final check-in, ask all adults and three student volunteers to bring their chairs to the center of the circle. Instruct everyone on the outside circle to simply listen for a moment while we do a quick meeting about how it went. We call this double circle arrangement "Fish Bowl" as the outside circle can simply look in and observe the inside. With very brief shares, pass the talking piece around the small inner circle for the open questions: "how do you think the circle went today? Anything that went well? What improvements could we make?" We've found that students naturally love to hear what adults are saying about them and this process piques their curiosity and gets their focus. It's a great way to give some praise and maybe make small comments about ideas for making it even better next time.
Step 8) Close with a Clap
Return all chairs to the outer circle, instruct everyone to stand up, and on the count of three we'll all do one big, loud clap together to finish. ("1-2-3-CLAP!"). Be sure to thank the students for participating.
>Integrating this Circle with Curriculum
If your students enjoyed this circle, how can you incorporate it into your curriculum? You may wish to have them write a story about their experience over Thanksgiving break or perhaps a poem about something they are grateful for. What other creative ways can you think to integrate today's themes? The sky’s the limit!
And if you didn't receive the notice, our in-person Introductory Training is coming up this new year in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA.
(We typically fill up fast so we do recommend reserving a seat early)
Wishing you a successful circle and a smooth transition back from the holiday!
All the best,
Stephanie and the entire team at the Center for Restorative Process
Did you know that cultivating a restorative classroom starts with a shift in mindset? Here are three crucial mind shifts that we can all practice to start building more restorative classrooms and school cultures
1) The first shift acknowledges that troublesome behavior is normal, and when students behave in troublesome ways they create opportunities to learn important social and emotional skills. What is important is not so much that they got into trouble in the first place, but what they learn along the way. Making things right is a powerful learning experience.
2) The second shift is a departure from the retributive model in which an authority, after taking testimony from the aggrieved party, decides guilt and assigns punishment. In restorative practices the authority figure acts more as a convener and facilitator. The initial investigation is concerned with identifying who was significantly affected by the incident. The facilitator invites them into a circle dialogue and, if they accept the invitation, helps prepare them. During the circle dialogue the problem and its impacts are explored and the group comes up with ideas on how to make things right. Usually this means the students who were the source of the trouble take specific actions that address the consequences of their choices. Consider the difference in outcomes between the authoritarian/punitive approach and the restorative approach: the first breeds resentment, alienation and shame and/or possibly an equally troublesome habit of fearing and submitting to authority; the second builds empathy, responsibility and helps restore relationships.
3) The third shift moves the locus of responsibility for well-being of the community from the shoulders of the experts to the community itself. While counseling and similar strategies have their place and are often helpful by themselves, they are immeasurably strengthened when complemented by restorative practices that challenge those who are in the circle dialogue to share information with each other and to come to agreements as a group.
Or feel free to grab the free training manual below.
We know that trying to (or even thinking about trying to) bring restorative practices into your school can feel overwhelming, to say the least. So to reignite your inspiration, here are some shining examples of schools who are succeeding at implementing restorative practices principles in creative ways.
1) Educating Hearts -- Love is More Important Than Knowledge
Our friends as Edutopia share a moving example of educating hearts, not just minds. At 3:45 you'll notice how one school is actually training fifth graders to be "Peace Helpers" and facilitate conflict resolution circles and lessons themselves instead of relying on an adult facilitator. Such a great example of moving beyond the "authoritarian" mode and empowering the children to be the experts.
2) Teaching Real-World Problem Solving Through Innovative Projects
What if we could build a school and classroom culture where problems were viewed as opportunities? This Oakland classroom is finding creative ways to do just that through an innovative agriculture project. Notice how engaged the students are and how they're collaborating together to come up with a solution.
3) Empowering Teachers to Lead Morning Circle "Family-Time"
Check out how morning circle meetings are creating a sense of family and allowing kids (and teachers) to take on greater leadership roles at this school in Maine, USA. These guys are even doing morning yoga in their circles to create a relaxed climate and teach body intelligence! At 4:56, the principal's advice for school leaders says it all:
"Once you have a culture where staff are committed to kids, it spreads like wildfire. I'm smart enough to know that as a leader of my school, I'm not the expert. My teachers are the experts. A key mindset is for leaders in schools to feel empowered to give their teachers the license to do these kinds of things."
4) Practicing the "Mushy Stuff" -- Cultivating a Culture of Caring
How do you teach kids to genuinely care for one another? This precious video might give us some clues. CARE for Kids program in Kentucky creates a culture where kids feel safe by nurturing heartfelt relationships with not just the staff but amongst the students themselves. Talk about moving beyond the problem-corrective model to a truly peaceful community...! If you're like me, you may wish to grab some Kleenex because Security Monitor, Richard Little's, description at the very end is a tear-jerker.
What are some of your favorite examples of restorative practices being used in schools?
Let us know in the comments section below so we can feature your links in our Restorative Community Library of resources. We'd love for you to collaborate on this project with us. (You can read more about the library we're building here).
Hope these videos gave you a little dose of inspiration. If so please share with any teachers, administrators, or change-agents you think may benefit so we can all transform our schools and classrooms.
Have a great weekend,
So many of you have expressed interest in learning more about restorative practices and we want to let you know that we're listening.
Which is why we're excited to announce a new free Community Library of articles, videos, infographics, training material, printables, quotes, and fun inspiration we are putting together pertaining to restorative practices in schools (and other related topics you may enjoy).
True to the restorative spirit, however, we've realized that it would be so much more restorative of us to create this resource library in collaboration with you (instead of pretending to be the internet's only all-mighty expert telling you what to think). As you likely know, restorative practice is about holding space for discussions that are healing and community-building while drawing on the wisdom of the circle's participants. Which is why we will be sharing our resources and findings but would also love to draw on your wisdom and hold space for this larger global discussion to unfold.
Which brings us to a few questions for you:
What are some of your favorite restorative practices links? ...
If you feel inspired to participate in the building of this Restorative Community Library, please share any resources you think we should include for the group. We have a very large global community and your thoughts and resources matter to greatly to us all and this movement at large. Let's get this message out there, together.
Please share a couple links to your favorite restorative resources with us:
Thanks for your help and be sure to keep an eye on our ever-growing Community Library on Pinterest. Simply click the graphic below to begin browsing.
Looking forward to seeing what great resources you have to share with our community!
Not sure what sorts of questions to explore with your class or staff?
High quality prompts are questions that give the circle its energy and focus. The circle keeper asks a question and invites everyone on the circle to respond (including the circle keeper). Some questions are proactive and are about building and maintaining community. Check-in questions are an example of this. Some prompts are about responding to specific challenges. Restorative questions are a sequence of prompts that guide dialogues leading to understanding the consequences of harmful behaviors, and agreements about how to repair those harms. Closure questions invite reflection on what has happened in the circle.
High quality prompts have these characteristics:
Want to see some example questions for your next circle meeting?
Here's a free "Quality Question Cheat-Sheet, our printable gift to you:
And if you'd like a complete introduction to Restorative Practice, help yourself to the free training manual (upper right).
Amos Clifford, Guide and Restorative Council Mentor; trainer in restorative justice, restorative dialogue with nature, and circle-keeping and the way of council; mentor.