Restorative Justice Talking Circles, the simplest of questions can connect us.

I teach Intro to Restorative Justice at UWRF, and I our class format is the Circle process.  I LOVE it!  The students love it.  In three semesters of teaching it, I have only gotten one student that didn’t like the process.  Anyway . . .

I came up with the “getting acquainted” question off the top of my head.  I asked what winter clothing item, do you most enjoy wearing.  It was the last class of the semester so about the 16th Circle for this group.  I was impressed and struck by how connected we became over articles of clothing.

A student just a few seats to my right, turned up his jeans at the ankle, and talked about loving his flannel jeans.  Of course I thought how I always wanted to get a pair of those.  The talking piece was across the Circle, another student, made comment to his peer across the Circle ” . . . me, too” and showed the flannel lining of his jeans.

Someone else talked about loving mittens that divide your fingers on the inside.  I connected with that.  It was really fun a round of answers to listen to.

A recent evaluation form had the feedback that what the person liked least was “too much fluff at the begining, unnecessary”.  I thought about that Circle, and I know I spent some time getting all 22 people feeling comfortable.  I do feel the stages are structured to get us prepared for the tougher questions.

I wonder what ‘fluff’ this person felt.  Maybe it was the values, and maybe it was a connecting question.

I error on the side of building up of connecting people a little before addressing the harm.  To me the more you know about someone the more you have something to connect to them about.

I was chatting with some volunteers before a session.  I learned a lot about ice fishing!  I didn’t know about the pop-ups or walking on the ice vs running.  It was pretty clear a few other people had way, way more knowledge than I did.

My next getting acquainted question is going to be “what is something you know A LOT about”.