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.
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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:
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M. Amos Clifford
Amos Clifford, Guide and Restorative Council Mentor; trainer in restorative justice, restorative dialogue with nature, and circle-keeping and the way of council; mentor.