5 tips for the journey, community to school-based Restorative Justice.

I was very fortunate that in 1999 and 2000 the founders of St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program, had intentions on focusing the program on juveniles.  They also engaged a founding board member, who at the time was on the local school board.  Her take on expulsions in schools, was youth were being pushed away at a time they should be brought closer.   With her leadership SCVRJP focused on “embedding the philosophy” of Restorative Justice in the St. Croix Valley.  As board chair she guided us towards the areas of juvenile justice and schools, and the core programs of Victim Impact Panels and victim-offender mediation (as we called it then).

As luck would have it, we added a high school assistant principal to the board of directors.  His house was egged, he accepted Restorative Justice.  His story of the healing it brought his spouse, and the positive relationship with the students, promoted his support and use of SCVRJP.

The first Circle I kept for SCVRJP was in 2005, for a school-based incident.  I still keep a copy of the young man’s apology letter in my book of Circle readings.  He still keeps the Circle of individual ribbons tied together, in his top drawer of special things.

I live 12 miles from River Falls, where SCVRJP was founded and eventually opened the Restorative Justice Center in 2006.  Before the Restorative Justice Center opened, when I was “on the clock” I would stop in at the high school.  This became a pattern of getting cases.  Sometimes it was the students waiting to be disciplined. The assistant principal saw me, saw the student, and brought us in his office together.  Sometimes we just visited about how to handle concerns at the school restoratively.  SCVRJP handled cases of lunch room food fights, students assaulting each other, gym class threats, mean girls, overdose at school, truancy, drugs and drinking on a field trip.  We handled these in various degrees of diversion or formal involvement.

The use of Restorative Justice was part of the student handbook and code of conduct.  A few years later I called back for a new copy, it had already been removed.  Staff changed, SCVRJP got busier and the use of Restorative Justice reduced in individual cases, and increased in teachers and staff coming to training.  SCVRJP volunteers helped with Circles at a lock-in, one of those high school students is now in my college course!  At any rate, things change, that is the first tip for the journey!

Be wise with your time and energy, things ebb and flow, and they change.  Especially in schools.  be patient when working with school systems.  Consider the growing of a garden, sometimes to prune things back is best.  Sometimes you get good tomatoes and sometimes you feed the bugs!

The 2nd tip, is to promote community.  As community based programs, we are often “righting wrongs”.  Community programs typically take referrals after an incident has happened.  In schools it is important to reaffirm, repair and rebuild relationships (pbis posts).  I teach schools Circles, because they can be used for academic instruction, classroom behavior management, and resolving conflict.  To teach teachers how to do a victim-offender conference, is not the way to start (in my opinion).  They don’t have time, they don’t understand the overarching philosophy or goals.  The 3rd tip, is to meet schools where they are at.

Meet a school where they are at means spending time getting to know how they have come to want school-based restorative justice.  I could list 50 different schools I’ve worked with, and I can give you 50 different ways they came to want to be trained in Restorative Justice.  Help them based on where they are at and what they want.  Align with the goals of those invested.

My 4th ‘wisdom of the lived experience’, encourage them to try something.  When working with schools, have the direct application tips for teachers.  These people are already angels, and they need clear specific “how do I” answers and training materials.  Be structured in what you are asking them to do, from the 1:1 conversation with students, to how to keep the Circle.  I love good teachers, the best are no-bullshit, and for a farm girl from South Dakota, I’ve always gotten that.  They need you to be real, and to be confident and know your stuff.  If you don’t know it, you can’t fake it.  The best compliment I got was someone giving me positive feedback for doing Circle in Circle training.  He had just been at a training on student engagement, and the trainer lectured and did powerpoint the entire day.

The 5th tip . . . walk the journey, go back to the school, do coaching and follow up.  I had some exhausting days, but I learned the most when I went from class to class, circle to circle.  I was right beside the team I was helping, I was in the school community they were trying to transform.  Once I sent someone to go learn, and the school ended up on lock-down.  The teacher and I laughed afterwards, but the lessons learned from that experience won’t go unforgotten!

The journey from community to school-based tips:

  1. Things Change, honor that cycles happen.
  2. Build community in schools, don’t start at the top of the PBIS triangle, start at the bottom.
  3. Meet schools where they are.  What’s working well, what are they trying to accomplish.
  4. Get specific action items to those being trained.  Encourage people to try something new.
  5. Follow up, coach, get experience doing the work in a school setting.

SCVRJP is hosting an advanced school-based training on June 8 & 9 in River Falls, WI.  From now until July 31, I am available to do contracted trainings for SCVRJP.  On August 1st, I will be available as Circle Space Services, offering trainings for practitioners and school-based providers.

1 Comment

Filed under Restorative Justice in Schools, SCVRJP

Promote self-control, use “me” statements in Circle process.

Like most people, I don’t like to be interrupted or have my thoughts completed incorrectly.  Well, what, I judged as incorrect.  Any well-versed Circle person knows there is no right or wrong.  At these moments of frustration, I have learned to try to “observe” and consider why it seems “wrong”.   Thank you to those that shared before I finished, saying you understood sharing with the talking piece as using “I statements”.  It didn’t quite fit and it’s taken me awhile to know why.  No disrespect to the “I statement” approach, which reduces blame, shame and conflict between individuals.  I’m proposing “me-statements” for use in Restorative Justice Circle process.

Me-statements are used to speak from the heart.  To relate your experience or your truth.  Talking in “me” means: for me . . . , about me . . . , this happened to me . . . , because of me . . ..  We have gotten conditioned to avoid being all “me, me, me” which implies being selfish.  I’m not locking into the exclusive use of the word “me”. I’m talking about a perspective here.  The me, perspective means having accountability, self-control and the ability to express yourself vs being selfish.  Knowledge of “me” is emotional intelligence and a social-emotional skill-set.  Teaching students and those in Restorative Justice process to speak from “me” provides a deeper Circle experience.

Here are 4 reasons Me-statements are helpful in Circle.

  1. Speaking from belonging.  From the place of me, indicates you are part of a larger collective.  There is a we, and you are individually identifying your experience.  You are relating your story when you use the me perspective, you are speaking your truth.
  2. I, is a word of authority.  In Circle we are connecting to the equality of dignity and worth.  Me is less judgemental that I.  Me is balanced and we can all speak from me, we might not yet know the “I’s” (when you _____, I feel ____).  The basic Restorative Justice questions are how were you impacted, what did you think when you realized this happened, what do you think needs to happen to make things right.  Me-statements offer a perspective.
  3. Circles are not about giving advice.  To offer your wisdom in terms of “this worked for me . . .” or “what helped me . . . ” allows others to see you access your own inner strength and wisdom, and that is more beneficial than advice.
  4. Teach others to listen to the voice inside.  That’s the “me” voice or the intuition, the soul, the ego, whatever you would like to call it, it is the place inside that young people need to connect to, to make decisions when authority figures are not around.  Verbalizing from that place, in a Circle, strengthens the connection.

So the caution here is not to overly rigid, correct people using I statements.  The way to be “circle-like” is offer what works best, to be able to explain how me-statements benefit in Circle.  Get wisdom from Circle by asking people to talk about the difference between a me-statement and an I-statement.

Modeling is a Circle-keepers strongest resource.  Practice some me-talk and see how it impacts your conversations and your Circles.  Drop me a comment and let me know what you think!

 

2 Comments

Filed under Circle Keeping, Circle Process

Honoring Values and Embracing Change

I was out of state with my partner, his son had recently died unexpectedly. The fragile nature of life and the importance of family was in my breath and pulsing in my veins. Things that are important really find the surface in times of loss and grief. A breath of relief had arrived and funeral arrangements were very close to being finalized. Next, I get a call that my Dad had a health issue. His vision in one eye went blurry. He himself shared his concern. This is a man who waited a day to go to the doctor with a bee stinger in his eyeball. This is the man who unsaddeled his horse and got him out to pasture, while his hand “was facing the wrong direction”. Needless to say if my Dad was concerned, I was concerned. I was afraid of a mild stroke. It turned out to macular degeneration, caught early, with medical intervention the progression of vision loss could be slowed.

Just a week later suprising news from my Mom, my Dad suggested they sell the farm and move to town. Wait, what? It’s been in the family since 1904, homestead by my great-grandparents. The house they lived in, was home, my home, my Dad’s home, my Grandparents home, and my Great-grandparents! That got my siblings to call me. We all had our feelings, yet it was Dad’s decision. A values training activity to Restorative Justice Circles is to imagine having a conversation with your family. You and your siblings don’t agree on the inherited family business. The question is after the conversation, how do you want to be remembered. I recalled this activity from my 2002 Circle Training with Kay Pranis. I want to be respectful, kind, generous. And so . . . I offered support.

March 3, news of Dad’s vision. March 9, they are selling the farm. March 21, my parents visit and we enjoy a fundraising dinner for SCVRJP. That afternoon I made pies and had a great visit with my Dad. He seemed at peace with his decision to move to town. I saw my Father, as aging and aware of times in life he had no fears. He is living his reality of age, declining health. I felt love and compassion, I felt fortunate for the strong relationship and connection to my family. I wanted to be like my Father, and really live life as life is. On March 22nd, I learned my Dad didn’t want to sell everything. So, I offered to come home and help. I decided that if my parents needed to move to town, I could come home.

Honestly, at first, I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea. I slept on it, I thought and I thought. As I held the idea of leaving SCVRJP, it opened up the potential to just do Restorative Justice differently. At the fundraising dinner, I felt a sense of a new chapter, an accomplishment or new level for SVRJP. The board of directors had fully handled the event, they did an awesome job! SCVRJP is in our community. Leaving might cause it to look different. The question came to mind about making this change. I thought about seasons, I decided to give the summer to making the transition. By April 1, I had made up my mind. I was going to leave, and take the time to find what I want to do next.

My heart is at peace about my decision. I will miss many, many people. However, I will enjoy a slowed down pace. I’m ready to put 12 hour days behind me. Non-profit director work requires a lot. I am looking forward to doors that might open if I finally get that book written, or I focus on being a free-lance consultant. Those thoughts are for the fall. Right now, this summer, is about helping SCVRJP turn the page to a new chapter. Many people have contributed gifts of time and resources. On behalf of all the past volunteers and especially our speakers that share stories, I am going to see that the transition is positive. The last lap of my service here begins, I want to say THANK YOU, to all of you that shared in part of the last decade.

1 Comment

Filed under Kris Miner, personal growth, SCVRJP

Restorative Justice Circles talking or transformation, using key elements for change.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (www.scvrjp.org) has been doing 100’s of Circles a year, since 2006.  In that time we have successfully placed topics in the center of the Circle.  We have consistently used a structure, based on the work of Kay Pranis (more posts referencing Kay).  The key elements of a Restorative Justice Circles, have been featured in two books by Kay, the Little Book of Circle Process and Peacemaking Circles from Crime to Community.

These Circle experience spans school settings, severe crime and significant loss, to staff meetings structured with Circle and our many Circles held to address public health issues in our community.  Highlighted in this post, are the rationale and reasons for using the key elements.  Talking Circles provide connection and potential to repair harm.  To transform the way people see themselves and others in connection to community and to transform behavior instantly, try the Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Elements, as described here.

A few of the commonly skipped or overlooked Key Elements:  Consensus to Values, 4 Stages.  A Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle is more than just using a talking piece.

Consensus to Values This aspect of Circle is more than just having people write on a paper plate.  This aspect is also designed to pull people together in a community that has decided how they will relate to each other.  The first steps of “community” if not geography, would be common interests.  A specific pass of the talking piece asking people to reflect on the values in the center, as part of the way of being together, deepens the connection before exploring topics, facing challenges or repairing harm.

4 Stages  (I am assuming you know these, there are many posts here highlighting) When we take time to do some questions, before the deeper conversation, or intention of the Circle, we are reminding people that we can make important connections by caring and learning about each other.  The simple content provides a context for common likes, it builds connection.  Some of my favorites lately have been to ask people about the next big accomplishment.  Fun results when I asked another training group to share 3 things about their shoes.

The final part when using the 4 stages, is to give opportunity for people in the Circle to identify their “take aways” or reflections on the experience.  This serves for people to identify quickly and immediately the benefit of the experience.  Like speaking to the Center in Circle promotes self – agency, so does speaking to your experience at the end of the Circle.  The use of the last phase helps us know we did good work together, it is another opportunity to allow people to share from the wise-centered part of who they are.  When doing Circles around trauma or emotionally heavy topics, it allows people to  prepare for returning to the un-structured everyday communication styles.

When you do more in Circle, than just employe a talking piece, you are creating space for safety.  Safety promotes vulnerability, vulnerability becomes a responsibility (tweet me) and a responsible keeper uses that for the greater good of  all in Circle.  Using the stages show respect and places the power, in each person and the Center of the Circle.

Key Elements Restorative Justice Circle

Comments Off on Restorative Justice Circles talking or transformation, using key elements for change.

Filed under Circle Keeping, Circle Process, Circle Stages, Community, Elementary Classroom Circles, Kris Miner, Practitioner Skills, Responses from participants, Restorative Justice in Schools, SCVRJP, Talking Piece, Teaching RJ

From “teacher” to “keeper”, for successful restorative justice circles.

There has been an amazing increase in school-based Restorative Justice Circles.  All across the United States, schools, districts, teachers and trainers have emerged.  There is an excellent blog at Edutopia, for schools implementing (by Dr Fania Davis).

Years of teaching teachers has provided experiences that if I want to leave skills where I train, I need to make the material relevant, useful, accessible to the students, and especially if I am training teachers.  In a recent webinar by the Zehr Institute, (you can view the webinar on the link), what I have learned was reinforced by those implementing school wide Restorative Practices.  The comments by Dr. Davis shares, about school culture, especially resonated.

One foundational key concept, is the relationship to Circle participants by the Circle Keeper. (click to tweet)

I use this image as a reminder.

shapes

(c)scvrjp

The square represents when people are on different sides.  Assumptions are made about the other “side”.  There is a win-lose, right wrong, above-below based on judgements of those on the opposite or different side.  The triangle represents power, at the very top, 1 person.  At the bottom, many people.  This is the typical structure in a classroom, or in a business or hierarchy.  The Circle, is where people connect to the center.  Spokes to the center, connected to the center, equal dignity and worth of each and every person.  The role of the keeper is to bring the best out, the ‘keeper’ in each person in the Circle.

Training provides tips and techniques for moving into the relationship dynamic of Circle.  Some teachers, will explain the move to students.  Those with deeper connections to relationships and stronger social-emotional skills are naturally able to move to this dynamic.  It takes practice, trust and open-ness to the concepts of Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles.

Mid-november Circle Forward should be released, and it is my understanding this is part of the book.  I am looking forward to another resource for school-based/community building circles!  Pre-order at Living Justice Press.

Comments Off on From “teacher” to “keeper”, for successful restorative justice circles.

Filed under Circle Keeping, Circle Process, Practitioner Skills, Relationships, Restorative Justice in Schools, SCVRJP, Teaching RJ, Tip of the Week

National Association of Community and Restorative Justice

Here is the latest newsletter from the NACRJ.

The website:  www.nacrj.org

07 – NACRJ News

Comments Off on National Association of Community and Restorative Justice

Filed under Circle Process

Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Advanced Training

Please join us in River Falls, Wisconsin in October.  On the 23rd and 24th, an advanced practice, School-Based Restorative Justice Circle Training will be held.  The two-day training will feature discussion, reflections and ideas for developing effective Keeping skills and for using Circles in a range of applications.  The 2nd will feature co-trainer Catherine Cranston, who have been using Circles since 2006.

Seats are limited, and the registration deadline is October 3.

Please see the flyer for more details and the registration form: Adv Circle Training Oct 2014

 

There is also a Circle Training at SCVRJP on October 9 & 10.  www.scvrjp.org.

If your school would like to host this training please contact me!

Comments Off on Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Advanced Training

Filed under Circle Keeping, Circle Process, Elementary Classroom Circles, Practitioner Skills, Restorative Justice in Schools, SCVRJP

Peacemaking Circle Keeping 3 intentions, 3 activities, please.

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.

Circle Intentions

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Circle Keeping, Circle Process, Elementary Classroom Circles, Practitioner Skills, Restorative Justice in Schools, Teaching RJ, Tip of the Week

Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles K to college!

Using Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles in an educational setting can prevent, repair and right wrong-doing.

IF you only use Circles for building culture and climate, you are missing out on ways to empower students in problem solving.

IF you are only using Circles as an alternative discipline model, you miss inclusive teaching styles.

Over the past 14 years, I’ve been blessed with learned to deepen my interactions with Circle process.  I have trained staff from college campuses and elementary schools.  When you learn the methods and approach to a Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle, the applications can be broad and far reaching.

From dialogue on a social justice topic, to processing a sudden death.

To build culture and climate of inclusion and engagement to finding solutions to common problems.

Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles develop the individual skills of those trained as keepers, while deepening relationships and connections to anyone who experiences Circle process.

When exploring the implementation of Restorative Justice Circle or School-based Restorative Justice, consider expanding the reach of how you intend to use Circle process.

At SCVRJP we depend on the model as blogged about here consistently.  The framework applies to all types of Circles.  Keepers feel more comfort knowing that the topic varies, but the general format does not.  Harm from jalepnos to homicide can be addressed in Circle!  That is the title of a presentation I’ll be doing in a few days!

 

Comments Off on Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles K to college!

Filed under Circle Process

Circle Keeping, brain science connections.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP) has delivered 1,000’s of Circles and trained 100’s of people in Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process.  Circles in kindergarten classrooms, museums, prisons, college campus, fire departments, churches and many at the Restorative Justice Center.

As our program demands grown, the need to teach people the art of Circle keeping has grown.  As a non-profit working alongside criminal justice systems, the need to be “evidence-based” is crucial.  Having great outcomes, it is important to maintain the success.  These means teaching others how to do powerful, meaningful, effective Circle keeping.  I have focused on this for years.  The increased demand in training requests, partnered with the requests to do a two-day training in half-a-day has caused me to be analytical in the delivery of quality training, effective skills and targeted strategies for Circle keeping.

At a recent training I shared the technique of contracting or expanding my explanation of Restorative Justice and Circle.  In the very beginning before the opening reading, when starting I suggest doing this.  A training participant asked me more about what I meant.  I explained speaking longer or shorter, and monitoring the emotional climate.  I was asked again what I meant.  I realized I had developed my “feeling” for it.  My intuition had developed from doing Circles so often.  The second nature of Circle keeping is living and expresing the values of Restorative Justice.

Right then in the training session, I started explaining what that meant.  I talked about body posture of others, eye contact, how I was feeling.  What are the clues to “knowing” when we are ready to start Circle.  I used words like: trust, calm, connection.  Today I found what it is by brain science!

A HUGE ah-ha!  In reading Words Can Change your Brain, by Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, I noted the 12 Strategies of Compassionate Communication and powerful and making a TON of sense in the context of Restorative Justice.  I had to see if I could find a handout for this afternoons training.  It led me to learning the neural resonance also called neural coupling is a speaker-listener brain based connection!  THAT is the element to use when monitoring your Circle for emotional climate!

CompassCommunication

Comments Off on Circle Keeping, brain science connections.

Filed under Circle Keeping, Circle Process, Practitioner Skills, Relationships, Research, Teaching RJ, Tip of the Week