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

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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.

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National Association of Community and Restorative Justice

Here is the latest newsletter from the NACRJ.

The website:  www.nacrj.org

07 – NACRJ News

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

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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

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Restorative Justice made me a better Rodeo Clown!

My friend wanted to have a birthday around her bucket list item of getting on a mechanical bull.  So I helped by making a flyer, and rodeo numbers for party guests.  As the day approached, I teased someone I was gonna have “Happy Birthday” on my bloomers, so when I fell off the bull that would show.  We had a good laugh about that and somehow the joke that I would be the rodeo clown was born.  In 24 hours I had gathered things for an outfit, including a cowboy hat with curly rainbow clown hair!

At a nice place at the Mall of America, I went to the restroom as me, and emerged and Bandi the Rodeo Clown.  I got looks, and laughs, kids wanted to take pictures with me.

Someone asked me if I had been a clown before.  I guess my skills looked experienced.  As I reflected on this silly evening of fun, I recognized the parallels and contributions that being a Restorative Justice practitioner provided me!

Courage to be different.  It’s becoming more recognized that we need to address social-emotional learning in schools, and we need to address first-offenses differently.  We need to change the way we do business when it comes to changing behavior.  My work takes me alongside courts, human services, corrections, and approaching it from a very different model.  Asking what people need, where others ask what they deserve sets me apart sometimes.  Service providers are moving much closer to Restorative Justice, with trauma-informed work, needs assessment and services that consider how to help instead of just how to punish.

Tenacity.  If you watch the video, I try quite a few times.  Despite the obvious fact that stockings are way to slippery, I try to make a decent ride.  To keep a non-profit going, constant juggling of needs and priorities: board, finances, staff, services, marketing, grants, volunteers.  I keep the majority of Circles and maintain a caseload.

Emotional Climate.  I accidentally went right off the otherside on my first try to get on that bull, that is where the video starts.  I got a lot of laughs, so much so, later I intentionally go right over the top to make everyone laugh.  When teaching or training I usually share these two piece of wisdom:

A smile is the first stage of healing.

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

I didn’t invent those statements, I’ve just used them so much I don’t remember where I heard or learned them.  They have become the way I believe, live and act.

When Restorative Justice becomes part of the fiber of your being, you live the message.  Not perfectly, we are human.  It seems to me I lived out some of Restorative Justice when I did something for the relationship, and the manner in which I was Bandi.  You can see what you think!

 

 

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Creating Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles how and why the relationship value question matters.

In Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process, and every Circle facilitated by SCVRJP, we identify relationship values at the first round with the talking piece.This is extremely important and requires an understanding of how and why that is so important.  A teachable lesson emerged recently and can demonstrate why framing the question is so important.

Technique & How  

1) Ask people to identify a relationship. Hand out paper plates

2) Ask them to identify something really important in that relationship.  Avoid using the word “value”, you are going to go behind the social mask, by asking this indirectly.  Suggest what makes the relationship great, without it, it would not be the same.

3)Handout markers, asking them to write the word about that relationship on the plate.  Remind them of the non-judgmental context, lots of things make great relationships, to just pick one for today.  Getting again behind their own judgments or preparing what they think they “should” say.

4)Role model, go first, start the talking piece, place plates in the center.

Why

1) Brain connections – engage people in thoughts of loved ones stimulates brain chemicals to promote openness.

2)Indirect ask – – we all want to fit in and belong, we use social masks, our answer change if we are with our friends or our parents friends.  That’s good because that creates accountability and social norms.  We want to get to the heart of people in Circle, and using the approach reaches a more genuine context.

3) Relationships matter – asking about a specific relationship that the person has, reinforces the importance of relationships and brings in dialogue relvant to what really motivates our behaviors.

4)Topic matter is comfortable – everyone can easily share about someone they have a relationship with.  This promotes bonding and a successful first round with the talking piece.

Lesson

It was observed in Circle that the relationship/values questions was framed as “someone you find inspiring”.  Participants picked figures like Gandhi, very few people have a personal relationship with Gandhi, so this question eliminates the personal context of who and what is important in personal relationships.  The “someone” rather than a relationship leaves out the discussion of disclosing who is important to us.  By a de-personalized question, people can social mask it easier and pick a figure, vs an actual relationship.  The cross pollination of discovering others values on relationship values is lost with the question framed this way.  The question could still be utilized in Circle, however it might not be the most effective and developing values that the Circle can then commit to use for the rest of the process.

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Restorative Justice Storytelling for those harmed, hoping to heal, 3 goals and a story.

Developing the skill set for working with storytellers is one of the most crucial building blocks for developing a successful Restorative Justice program.  Stories are a key element in Restorative Justice Circles.  Having powerful storytellers . . . common everyday people who have experienced a trauma and have the ability to share that story in a way that is transformative for the teller and listener both.

1) Relationship to speakers.  Learn to hold people close and offer them guidelines for effective storytelling.  People who have stories of traffic fatalities, homicide, drug overdose, suicide or war have experienced LIFE changing events.  The trauma restructures and reorganizes the brain – ways people organize thoughts, think of the world express and allow love.  Be a support an ally.  Show them other speakers, affirm their existence, wisdom and authentic relationship to the topic they will be speaking about.  GUIDE them into telling the story (link to 53 blog posts) with 4 bases and 12 tips.

Teach people they are the expert in their story, encourage the “telling” and minimize the reading.  Believe in them more than anyone, even their own selves.  A speaker finished recently, apologize to me, nearly in tears for being “all over the place” in telling his story.  I hugged him, whispered in his ear “the courage to share is all you need”.

2)Be a LISTENER.  Listen to the person who has something to share.  Listen and listen and listen.  Meet and plan for them to share, just by meeting and discussing their story.  You have to hold, HAVE TO HOLD peace, love, compassion.  You can’t twinge, hide or respond with your needs (okay balance this with being real).  Know the person well and know their story, you will hear hours, and they will give 20 minutes of this story.  Affirm all of it, reflect back what is impactful and helpful.

3)Know the process.  At SCVRJP we use 4 bases Intro/Incident/Impact/Reflection.  This works so well.  I can explain it forward and backwards if I have to.  I have taught it, used it, heard it, felt it, lived it, observed it.  I can’t help speakers unless it is a part of me.  I need to have it understood and create an understanding that speakers and I can talk about these stages and help them when the story changes.  The story should change.  Restorative Justice storytelling is designed to be a living thing, the story can change with seasons, experiences and how the speaker is doing on that particular day.

The above comments relate to storytellers for a specific segment of Circle.  There is also encouraging storytelling when everyone in the Circle is asked to share.  I say lots of affirmations when building up to a storytelling round.  For example I might offer: “we are all experts in our own stories”, “we can all tell a story; just think of the begining, the middle and the end”.  It is especially important to tell stories at Circle Keeper Trainings.

One volunteer who attended several trainings, and several Circles with youth, where often we related stories was not fond of a technique I would use.  The technique was an egg timer, and asking people to share a story or to share for 3 minutes what was on their heart.  Caution: use when emotional climate is ready.

This volunteer recently shared how she started something for her Granddaughters, based on her experience with storytelling at SCVRJP.   She offered this after reminding me how much she disliked the egg timer activity.  She related seeing how her Granddaughters are growing up in a very different world.  She decided then each night to write a story of her or her Mothers so that one day, her Granddaughters will have a better understanding of Grandma and Great Grandma who they never met.  The volunteer attributed the ability to write these stories from her experience in Circle.

I told this story to my coworker . . . who said “I wish my Grandma would have done that”  to which I replied “I wish all Grandma’s would do that”.

 

 

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