I’ve been traveling and training and learning more and more what people are calling “Circle” and I am getting more and more concerned that we are missing some key elements. Good work can be done in Circle. Transformation, growth and self-discovery can be multiplied when we keep from a grounded center in the practice and elements of Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process. The foundation from Kay Pranis and the Little Book of Circles. I’ve got 3 key intentions to use in your Circle keeping and then 3 activities to help promote those intentions. These crossover and support each other, they help support each other.
When Circle Keeping, your role is to guide the process, as a model. That means modeling a “Circle Hierarchy”, which would be an oxymoron! The structure of Circle is one of equal dignity and worth. A concept I have worked hard at teaching teachers is a different skill-set than classroom teaching. The intentions of your Circles work best when coming from this place of equality.
It is not easy, you let go of commenting, redirecting, controlling the Circle. The use of equality means taking time to offer opportunities to learn how Circle works best (vs ‘teaching’ it). This works, and I know this from 1,000′s of Circles and the stories from those that keep Circle using this intention.
Coming from a place of Values, is another Circle intention. This means living them as keeper. Modeling them for everyone in Circle. In a casual conversation some keepers shared with me, how they ask the kid that won’t share to say more. That is disrupting the equality, and not instilling the value of respect.
Those plates, or the co-created Center guidelines are the foundation and Center of Circle, the basis for reaching the center of each person in the Circle. You can’t build trust in the Circle, if as keeper you are not doing the same.
Inclusion in Circle is an intention for allowing room for all perspectives. Check your keeping, are you really doing this. Physically, are you making sure everyone in the room is in the Circle. Is your Circle as round as possible, so everyone is knee to knee, shoulder to shoulder? Mentally, are you preparing your questions, have you put thought into your Circle. Have you considered what everyone else will think about the questions, the topics. Have you invited as many perspectives as possible to the Circle? That is a form of inclusion – to have the community voice, the hurt, the harmed and the people impacted.
3 Circle Activities that promote values, equality, inclusion
1) Stand and have people take one step in when they share. Have them do two snaps when they finish, and the Circle do 2 snaps. This activity shows the turns, and cues the listeners in, while giving them a role (to snap). They track the speaker (role modeling, practicing one at a time). This also engages people to take courage to share, everyone is asked to step in, one at a time (equality).
2) Y Chart. Draw a Y on a plate, then add a drawing of an eye, an ear and a heart. Ask people to share what it might look like, sound like and feel like if the values in the Center were in the Circle. Any round with the talking piece that includes a deeper discussion or reflection on the values is value added.
3)Consensus/Commitment “action”, when having people commit to do their best with the values in the Center, include a verbal cue, but then also an action. A thumbs up, pass a pinky finger handshake, or putting your foot in the center for two taps.
Join me at the Advanced Keeper Training, encouraging use of Peacemaking Circles in Schools! October 23 & 24, 2014.