Restorative Circles Lesson 5: Resources for Fishbowl Circles
How often can I use the fishbowl format?
You can use this type of circle repeatedly, but some classes will become impatient with it after a couple of weeks because those who are in the outer circle may feel like they have a marginal role. It’s a great thing when the students start complaining because they want to be more involved in the circles! You can ask them if they will stay on task if they work in small groups, and see how that goes. You can also have a circle discussion with the class on the question, “When, and for what situations, should we as a class use fishbowls?” Another alternative is to use the Spiral circle format, which tends to keep the outer circle more engaged.
Fishbowls can also be used for the positive behaviors that the students listed along with the troubling issues. Try focusing on the positive one week, using the exact same questions. Some classes will take to this readily. Others will not want to participate; for these classes, kindness and affection may be socially riskier than confrontation!
Restorative Questions with Optional Prompts
Circle leaders can use optional prompts to help students answer questions and tell their stories more effectively. Some useful prompts are listed here:
From your point of view, what happened?
In addition to these questions, when the dialogue is coming to a close, we ask a final question that is not on the poster. The final question, which helps us reflect on our experience, is:
What was it like for you to participate in this dialogue?
Overview of a Restorative Dialogue
A restorative circle dialogue is different than the circles the class has done so far because instead of practicing on hypothetical situations (the chips scenario), it focuses on specific conflicts between people. They can be small or large conflicts, and these circles can be brief—a matter of a few minutes—or, if the circumstances are serious and there has been significant harm, they can meet for an hour or more.
Restorative circles generally have three phases. You can explain these phases and what happens in each of them to students. Teaching restorative practices, skills and concepts using this curriculum will support each of these phases; it will increase the likelihood of successful outcomes.
First phase—before the circle: The main tasks in the first phase include:
Managing the logistics of setting up a meeting.
Sometimes the first phase happens very quickly, on-the-spot, as in impromptu circles that are called immediately when a conflict arises. Many circumstances involve taking more time, sometimes meeting individually with each person involved.
Second phase—the circle dialogue: This is the actual circle, where the restorative questions are used to help people come to understanding and make things right.
When preparing students for the circle dialogue, clarify that it is not like a courtroom drama. Nobody is on trial. Even if people’s stories about what happened differ and seem to contradict each other, more often than not as people share there will be more clarity and areas of agreement, and this will be sufficient to create understanding and come to agreements.
Third phase—after the circle: The main focus here is on accountability and support.