I can’t get very far from blogging, speaking from the heart.

I did a recent post that was speaking from the heart, it was about my relationship to my work right now.  It feels good to write and there is something about sharing in a way to think it could help others.  When I didn’t post for two days this week, it was on my mind.  So I had to keep a grip on my stress by posting, sigh.  I feel better now.

What I need to post about is the wonderful experience of having visitors.  Visitors to the Restorative Justice program, SCVRJP, initially interested in Underage Consumption Panels.   The guests are applying Circles to other programs and groups they run.  I am sooo thrilled with the visit outcomes.  The timing could not have been more perfect.  The guests were able to be part of an underage consumption panel (which is held in Circle), a Circle with students from the alternative school and two days of Circle Training.  I also set up appointments for them to speak to our local clerk of courts and municipal court Judge.  A meeting with a community member/volunteer was also arranged.

What these meetings did, was give me an opportunity to hear the program ‘check-up’.  I was fighting back tears as I heard the Judge declare “this is the best thing that’s ever happened to us”.   The explanation about the powerful impact of hearing directly from vicitms, and most importantly the lack of having repeat offenders.  The Judge was sharing the best things you could hope to hear.  I was extremely proud of our community, and extremely honored to send these two wonderful people back across the United States with such a rich experience.

My community member also offered ideas, suggestions and described the value of realizing each person has a story and that stories can be shared to help other people.  The young people that attended our programs, and shared Circle with my guests also offered support, compassion and were brilliant examples.

On the day of the visit, I shared with my intern, how excited I was to have the guests.  She asked me if I was nervous.  I said no.  Then after a few minutes I asked “should I be?”.  This is the first time I’ve had visitors like this, sure people come for trainings.  But this was like a shadowing session, mixed in with learning about us and how we work.  One of the visitors said this was the most beneficial training she has ever been to.

Okay – this isn’t a Kris Miner bragging post.  This is a work hard and it will pay off example.

Restorative Justice and Circle process is beginning to take hold, beginning to make sense and I believe will evolve into a preferred method of moving forward.

Second graders solving problems, with Circle process.

Catherine teaches and engages students with School-based Restorative Justice and Classroom Circles.  She shares this story:

 

Another problem solving circle today in second grade.

Students came in from the playground today after noon recess upset with the behavior of two classmates. It turns out that two youngsters were teasing and chasing one of the shy children from my classroom. The others in the classroom felt powerless while on the playground to help the attacked shy child.

Well , that feeling of powerless left the students the minute they entered the building. I had no more than opened the playground door when students bombarded me with shouts of, “We need a problem solving circle to help someone.”

Upon inquiry I determined the two offenders and their victim. Keeping the three of them with me and sending the rest of the students down the hallway to our classroom, I proceeded to have a quiet conversation with the two offenders. The victim stood silently nearby while carefully listening. By the look on the victim’s face I could see that he was mad and sad at the same time. I directed him to the classroom and said to the two offenders, “You are going to have to go into that classroom and face your friends right now. I know they are all in there getting the circle ready.” (At this point I had no idea if that was true, but had assumed from the tone of the other children’s voices they were upset enough to give up read aloud to help solve this problem.)

As it turn out I was exactly correct. When I walked into the classroom with the two offenders in tow the entire classroom was sitting quietly yet assertively in our circle space. They had assigned seats for the offenders and had already placed the young boy (victim) in a safe chair next to one of our strongest young second grade girls. ( I call her my circle expert.)

Needless to say the offenders walked with their heads down to their assigned seats. The first round of the talking piece was just to tell how you felt right now. The second round started with the victim who told what happened. The third round each student was asked to add what they knew or saw of the incident. Eventually on the fourth round the offenders were given the talking piece to explain what happened and how they felt now. They both readily admitted to the teasing behavior. And apologized to the victim.

The problem solving round is always my favorite part of the circle. Children are amazing at solving problems. In fact, much better than I am. They seem to find more honest and natural ways to repair the harm.

We passed the talking piece and I asked the children to give the offenders ideas on how to repair the harm they caused. The consenus today was that both offenders needed to miss recess tomorrow and while they stay inside they are to write the victim an apology letter. In addition to that the offenders are both under the watchful eyes of the rest of the class all week. Both offenders (with talking piece in hand) agreed to do the apology and the missing recess.

At this point I took the talking piece and gave the teasing a name-Bullying. That literally shocked some of the children into an audible gasp. One young girl even put her hand to her mouth in surprise. We have read books and talked at length about – bullying. They were just shocked that teasing and chasing after someone could be called bullying. I then talked a little bit about what to do if a bully teased, chased, or harassed you. We passed the talking piece asking for suggestions on how to be assertive (using deep voice, using body language, etc).

Finally, the last round with the talking piece was a committment on what each person would do next time they saw a bully in action or were the victim of a bully. One young girl said, “I don’t think I will run to the teacher at first. I think that I should turn to the bully and tell them to stop. I think that I should give them a chance to fix the problem themselves. But then if they don’t stop, then I will tell the teacher and ask for help in making the bully stop.”

Again, I couldn’t possibly have said that better myself. When my turn came…I said, “Yeah, what she said!”

What a full and fabulous week ahead!

This week is packed!

Highlights . . .

. . . visitors for across the US coming for Circle Training and to observe an Underage Consumption Panel.  So I facilitate the Underage Class and the Circle Training.

. . . the 2nd Driver Improvement class, which is a Safe Teen Driving Circle.

. . . UNITY in the Community – 10-2 on UWRF Campus and 5:30-7:30 in the Community.  A variety of Cultural dance, poetry, music and a spontaneous talking circle on campus, and circulating three future dates to the community.

. . . finance committee meeting, teaching my UWRF class, meeting with a board member, preparing handouts and training materials.

. . . oh yes, and working on getting two or three Circles pulled together – – one major Understanding Circle around gay marriage, and another smaller one on stolen property.

Maybe I need to figure out what I am going to delegate, or not get done.  There’s no one to delegate to . . . we interview next week.  Oh yes . . . write interview questions!

I gotta go . . .

MN Public Television MN TPT partnership outcomes.

This is an example of attending to networking and building relationships. 

In the Fall of 2007 SCVRJP, MN Public Television and The Allstate Foundation teamed to create a documentary on Safe Teen Driving.  In August of 2008, MN Public Television invited me to the studio and to be part of “My Source” promotions.

I put this on You Tube, so it could be linked to the blog.  Here is the promo that is airing.  I think I look stiff, but live and learn right!?  I hope I get another chance to do something like this. 

It has been fun for people to tell me they’ve seen me on TV.  It also solidifies SCVRJP as a competitive non-profit.   tpt-logo-strip

I was writing a grant report and looked as how many times MN TPT has aired our program.  I took the ‘value’ and discovered they are supporting us to the tune of $81,000.00!  Can you believe that!?   That is about 1/2 of our budget.  We don’t budget in “in-kind” gift right now.  In kind meaning we don’t exchange the cash.

This whole project began as a little idea.  It grew into such a wonderful partnership.  Build partnerships in and for your Restorative Justice work.

– – peace, Kris

I need to get a divorce. . . from my job, maybe.

To readers that might be new here, I believe personal and professional mix. 

 This is a blog on Restorative Justice, written by me (and help from those that send stories & interviews).  So once awhile a blog post, will enter more of my personal life.  These are the ones where people say “Wow, you really put yourself out there”.  Then I wait to figure out if that is a good or a bad thing, then I remember I try to live my life as is, no labels, “good” or “bad” it just is.

I go with my gut, really my heart on what I post about.  Some posts need a little more guts.  Here’s going with guts to make this statement (and post):

I think I need a divorce from my job. 

In order to put positive spin on my past, I have spent the last 6 months or so, saying I am married to my job.  See this explains why in the 23 years since I was the legal age to marry(18). I was only married for 6 months.  I know it’s more than just being “married to my job” . . .

I’ve made my share of mistakes the last 23 years: I dated the guy who I knew was an alcoholic and we would never go any further than party pals, I knew not “the one”.  Another phase was “pretending” that the pro football player and I were or would be more than we ever were.  I had a fantasy that this guy and I who knew each other for years before dating would work.  We were too different and I spent 17 months there.  These are just a few of the examples of times I did things that blocked myself from getting to “the one”.  Sometimes I just think about waiting until my daughter, Kylie is in college, about 15 months from now.  Is that just another self imposed” block”?

I know what was going on with me.  Fear of committment, not feeling worthy enough of a really good guy.  AND, BUSY, super busy being a single Mom, a social worker, a supervisor.  I was soccer coach Mom, girlscout leader Mom, volunteer at the sock hop Mom, basketball Mom.  One time I was even a fortune teller, fantastic costume and even a magic crystal ball.  I managed to get a dimmer switch into an electric cord! 

With regards to my jobs, not just any kind of employee – I was always, and I mean ALWAYS, super invested in my work.  Passionate, on fire completely committeed.  Yet . . . I have wanted LOVE.  I have wanted that significant relationship with one person.  That relationship that is exclusive. 

Yet – now at 41 figuring out all the mistakes of the past.  Knowing damn well I am deserving and would be one hell of a great catch.  I am telling myself I am married to my job.   Last time I checked ‘married’ people don’t date!

So I need a divorce.  I need balance.  I’ve used my job and career success to define who I am.  I definately have proved I don’t need no stinkin man.  Where that chip came from, who knows.  My Dad is an old-fashioned sexist pig, yet I love him more than anything.  Really no offense calling him that – he told the last boyfriend I had home: “lets go talk, the women can do the dishes”.  When that boyfriend laughed his ass off, I knew we were thru.

I played Scrabble with an ladies group, a retired woman said to me “is there anything you talk about that doesn’t relate back to Restorative Justice”.  My mouth was open.  See I was playing Scrabble to get out of my work world.  She meant it kindly, she was just being very open and honest.

I need to cultivate life for myself that is beyond the love and passion for Restorative Justice.

Okay – I just reread this whole post.  I don’t need a divorce, I need to manage my time and myself.  Don’t spin my wheels in dating space that isn’t right and cultivate my hobbies outside of RJ.  I need to call back my Scrabble pal, I don’t need to just fill in, I need to commit to that once a month.  Look at the valuable advice I got.  What a great place to practice being more than just the “Circle Queen”.

Once again, the blog writing works like I am holding a talking piece.  Speaking until I feel understood, and really coming to an understanding about myself.  I hope by sharing my story, you feel more connected to yours.

Another example of School-based Restorative Justice, elementary Circle story

Here is another story of School-based Restorative Justice.  Catherine has been teaching for over 20 years and has found Restorative Justice Circles to be  powerful and effective addition to her classroom and teaching!  This story is another highlight of the wonderful outcomes. 

After you read this, imagine for a moment, if the formal approach was used instead . . .

 

Imagine a group of second graders excited to find a grassy area of the playground filled with dandelions.  Imagine one particularly excited little girl with a hand full of dandelions for her teacher.  Now imagine this same little girl setting the flowers on the pavement for a few minutes while she joins a 4-square ball game. But now is when the trouble starts…..
 
Two third graders saw the dandelions, came over and stomped them all into the pavement.  Many second graders were watching this happened but they felt powerless to stop it.  By the time I picked them up from recess the little girl who picked the flowers was in tears with classmates crowded around her trying to console her.  At this point I intervened and tried to find out what happened.  The story was rather garbled and when I walked over and spoke to the third graders they denied involvement.
 
“Time for a problem solving circle”, the second graders all said in unison.  So I asked the two third graders to come in with us and join us in my classroom for a circle.  One of the students had been in one of my circles before so he just calmly walked in and sat down.  However the other third grader was very apprehensive.  She walked into my classroom very tentatively and slowly headed for the circle.  My students had a chair all ready for her so he really didn’t have a chance to turn around and leave the room.  Besides I was standing by the door and closing it.
 
We started the circle with a round restating the Circle Values (which are posted on the wall near the circle space).  Each student stated a value from the list they were going to work hard on today while in circle.  I also explained and restated all the values then everyone participated in a committment round.  When using problem solving circles with just my own class I don’t have to spend this much time on the values, but with the third grades not being familiar with the circle I felt that was an intricate part of the process on this circle. 
 
First round:  Tell your name
Second round:  Tell something fun that you did on the playground today.
Third round:  Tell something you saw on the playground today that made you sad.
 
Then the second grade girl got to tell what happend and how it made it feel then and now.
Fourth round:  Tell your story about the dandelion problem. (only if you were involved otherwise pass)
Offenders are now given the chance to tell what happened and how they felt then and now.
 
Then I say, “Now we all know what happened.  We can”t do anything about that now. (The circle was not a fact finding mission, it was about repairing harm)  We can do somethng about fixing it now.  We can repair the harm done to (victim).” I looked at the offenders and said, “Now is the best part of the circle.  All these second graders in the circle today are going to give you some really good ideas on how to fix the problem.  They will have some ideas to help you repair the harm you did.  Now listen carefully as they give you ideas.  If you have an idea you can talk about it too, when you get the taking piece.”
 
At this point the students give me a thumbs up if they have a good idea to repair the harm.  I give the talking to piece to that person to start the “fixing” round.  Today the answers almost all had the theme of apologizing and then helping the victim pick new dandalions the next day during recess.  Several students offered to help pick the new dandalions too.  When the offenders took the talking piece they agreed and restated the idea of helping pick dandalions tomorrow. 
 
The final round was committing to following through with picking the flowers and restating the solution.
 
The next day came….my class came out for recess and the two third graders were both involved in a 4-square ball game.  The minute they saw me they came running over saying, “Where is (victim) we need to help her pick some new flowers today.”   Within minutes I looked up and saw at least 10 children (including the two third grade offenders) in the grass collecting dandalions.  Within a few minutes (victim) came walking over to me wearing a huge smile and carrying an arm full of dandalions.  Now that’s repairing harm!

Explaining what a Circle is, a beautiful example.

This was found today when I googled Talking Circle Images.  I just love it.  Here is a link to the page itself.  I appreciate the opportunities described in this Circle description.  (talkingcircle1The Image is from the website.)

 

TALKING CIRCLE
A PLACE FOR PEACE, HARMONY AND REFLECTION

 

The Talking Circle is a traditional instrument for dealing with the things that interfere with the normal everyday concerns of a person or their community whether the concern is trivial or serious in nature. The Circle may be applied safely and confidentially to resolve conflicts, misconceptions, disagreements or deeper problems.

It can be taken as both, an opening or a closing of a door, depending on the individual’s circumstances or the objective in mind.

A Talking Circle is a place of comfort, wisdom, security and redress. It is where people come in search for new directions, abandoning the old, making amends, righting the wrongs and establishing new pathways for tomorrow.

It is a sacred place that is usually directed by a Circle leader, a mentor or a person of distinct nature and attachment to the spirit realm who intervenes and directs the flow of collective energies in the Circle.

The Talking Circle consists of a number of people, ranging from two to twenty for the best results, gathered together in a circular formation to share ideas, hopes, dreams, cares and energies in total unity and a sacred connection to one another.

It is also a place where individuals come to seek help, support, healing and understanding for any particular discomfort or instability they may have, or has been with them for some time.

The Circle is a protective shield of honesty, trust and comfort.

Confidentiality:

The material brought to the Circle is usually private, personal and/or confidential. As a general rule therefore, all material heard in the Circle stays in the Circle, unless a waiver or consent has been rendered beforehand.

 

********************

The description of how and why First Nations People use the Talking Circle to restore harmony to their communities was written by Pat Paul, the publisher and editor of the Wulustuk Times, a monthly publication. It was published in the November 2007 issue of the paper. Pat is a member of the Maliseet First Nation Community of Tobique, located in New Brunswick, Canada. He can be contacted at: pesun@nbnet.nb.ca

 

A wonderful Circle explanation

 

TALKING CIRCLE
A PLACE FOR PEACE, HARMONY AND REFLECTION

 

The Talking Circle is a traditional instrument for dealing with the things that interfere with the normal everyday concerns of a person or their community whether the concern is trivial or serious in nature. The Circle may be applied safely and confidentially to resolve conflicts, misconceptions, disagreements or deeper problems.

It can be taken as both, an opening or a closing of a door, depending on the individual’s circumstances or the objective in mind.

A Talking Circle is a place of comfort, wisdom, security and redress. It is where people come in search for new directions, abandoning the old, making amends, righting the wrongs and establishing new pathways for tomorrow.

It is a sacred place that is usually directed by a Circle leader, a mentor or a person of distinct nature and attachment to the spirit realm who intervenes and directs the flow of collective energies in the Circle.

The Talking Circle consists of a number of people, ranging from two to twenty for the best results, gathered together in a circular formation to share ideas, hopes, dreams, cares and energies in total unity and a sacred connection to one another.

It is also a place where individuals come to seek help, support, healing and understanding for any particular discomfort or instability they may have, or has been with them for some time.

The Circle is a protective shield of honesty, trust and comfort.

Confidentiality:

The material brought to the Circle is usually private, personal and/or confidential. As a general rule therefore, all material heard in the Circle stays in the Circle, unless a waiver or consent has been rendered beforehand.

 

********************
The description of how and why First Nations People use the Talking Circle to restore harmony to their communities was written by Pat Paul, the publisher and editor of the Wulustuk Times, a monthly publication. It was published in the November 2007 issue of the paper. Pat is a member of the Maliseet First Nation Community of Tobique, located in New Brunswick, Canada. He can be contacted at: pesun@nbnet.nb.ca

 

 

 

The future Restorative Justice Practitioner!

Yesterday I spoke to a group of praciticum students, future school psychologists.  I really hope that the magic they experienced in the Circle process will transfer to possibilities for them in the future.  I hope they realize that this is a tool they can use themselves with students.

I started the session with a talking circle (of course).  I could have used my time to give a lecture on Restorative Justice or to promote schools leaving Zero Tolerance behind.  I also wanted to be a professional role model, offer my experiences.  A chance to say things that I wish I would have heard in grad school.  I opted for the Circle.  That left me with 20 minutes at the end for the powerpoint covering: RJ, Zero Tolerance, Role Modeling and bits of wisdom.  I really hope the Circle did the trick.

I will get the powerpoint on slideshare soon.  That will help demonstrate the concepts, the student are also going to get access to the powerpoint as well.

What happened in the Circle – was the amazing experience that the majority of Circle offer.  We slowed down, we took time to really listen to each other.  I had my brother laughing later that day.  I had to call him and ask if he remembered how much we loved the old tv series “Scarecrow and Mrs. King”.  Video highlights!  We joked about all we got in the 80’s was sexual tension, now you need to be careful watching tv with a preteen.  Sidestory – wathcing Friends with Kylie, she might have been 11, and the show mentions a 3 some, and she asked me what that was!

The mention of the old sitcom came up in the Circle.  It’s little things like this that make me really enjoy the process.

I was also drawn into the “Circlespace” (the energy in the middle).  Young, future professionals sharing stories of how and why they were becoming school psychologists.  It is always heartwarming when people step into a Circle and offer themselves from their heart.

The feedback at the last round – included comments I have heard before.  How much better people got to know each other.  How positive it felt.  How valuable and important it would be to do more Circles.

I talked with people in Alaska and schools are built with the Circle space already there.  talkingcircleLook in the photo for an example.  It seems schools are coming along.  This group of future psychologists seemed to get it.  I hope Circles can become the first response to getting a group to know each other.  I hope Circles can be a response to address conflict.

I don’t doubt for a second that they work in helping us be more human.  We are in a time that our humanity is valued more than ever. 

I can’t wait to see being a “Restorative Justice Practitioner” take off as a college major.  See the IIRP website – they are our first and only school offering a Masters Degree in RJ.  Laura, from IIRP explains more in comment on Campus RJ.

I love working in this field at this moment in time!

Elementary Classroom – Talking Pieces

Post by Catherine, classroom teacher and circlekeeper.

talking_pieces_001

Talking peices come in many shapes and sizes in my classroom.  Children bring items to share and leave them on the shelf to use as talking pieces. We have MN Gopher stuffed animals, Gopher pucks, Wild pucks, Gopher hats, flowers, Snoopy ornaments, coins from a variety of countries, baseball cards, rocks, drawings, cards, and many homemade objects on the “Talking Piece Shelf”.  It is a special priviledge for a student (twice each day) to select the talking piece for opening or closing circles.  But….everyone knows it we are having a special or serious problem solving circle…the only piece that really works is a puck!
 
The read aloud book this week is, “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory”.  So one young boy brought in Wonka candies to use as talking pieces.  I have to admit it was the first time I have passed a package of Wonka Nerds around the circle as a talking piece.  But…it worked just fine!

talking_pieces_002

 

Thanks for sharing your photos and stories!  Catherine took Responsive Classroom strategies to the next level with restorative justice classroom circles.  Her school had a one-day training, a coaching day and the district sponsored a two-day circle training.  Catherine and her principal are happy to speak to other school staff and answer any questions.  Look for Catherine’s other posts.  She shares classroom stories and helpful school-based ideas.