Restorative Justice Circles provide a feeling of importance.

Do you like to feel like you are important?  Gosh I do and I like to provide that to other people as well.  Not the important as in arrogance, but feeling important like you matter and make a difference.

A recent Circle “newbie” described that the Circle made her feel important.  It was a Circle of many new people to the process, an adult or two and a mixture of high school and middle school students.

One of the teachings I highlight in Circle training is “unexpected enlightenment” meaning being open to others stories, thoughts and experiences as a way to our own personal growing and learning as people.  I am always trying to be open.  If you catch a lesson in your net you can pass it along to others.

I am passing along how valuable Circles are in making people feel important.  Circles give everyone equal value and equal opportunity to share.  Circles give equal contribution options, equal distance from the Center and from each other.  The stage is set for everything the Circle does to be important, as it engages all of us.

Victims and bystanders feel important because they are given a space and platform to speak.  Restorative Justice focuses on the impact.  You are important because how you were impacted is relevant.  Speaking about how you are impacted gives the opportunity to put the experience outside of you and inside a Circle of people listening and witnessing.

Contribution feels important.  If I am not asked for my voice, I don’t even think of it as being important.  Everyone gets asked in Circle.  I also align and inform people at the beginning, speak to the Center, use your wise words (not to insult or put down others) and speak from the heart.  So many times repeating what we think others want to hear or saying the answer that will not cause problems comes to mind.  Just recently I was thinking of what to say, and was going to ask if people wanted the honest response or the one that would keep the meeting going smoothly.

Back to my Circle “newbie” and Circles with middle school students.  Gosh do they ever need to feel important.  Like is in such transition.  I must admit, as it got closer and closer to the presentation of 80 middle school students, I began to worry.  I was shocked at how well-behaved they were in general.  Additionally, I was equally impressed and happy to experience the adultness of their Circle behavior.  They really took to it and respected the values, respected each other and opened up when given the opportunity.

It was one of my spontaneous moves, to be asked for a Circle demonstration and say “YES!”.  We got plates from the kitchen for the values, my coworker and I both got talking pieces from our purses.  One student leader had her Circle training manual from our session 10 months ago, used an opening reading from that!  We did a fish bowl, and 70 students stood around the dozen of us in Circle.  It was a career snapshot moment! 

A simple reflection at the end of Circle from a student involved . . . “the Circle made me feel important”.  Wa-la and that is the power of Circle!

1 Comment

Filed under Belonging, Circle Keeping, Circle Process, Full Circle Experiences, Meeting Goals, personal growth, Practitioner Skills, Relationships, Responses from participants, Restorative Justice, Teaching RJ

One Response to Restorative Justice Circles provide a feeling of importance.

  1. rick kelly

    I wanted to respond or pick up on the thread of the "unexpected enlightment" aspect of circles. It starts with the unexpected.

    I had a group of about 45 first year Youth Workers in their first class on "Therapeutic Activities" (part of a 3 year p[rogram I teach in). last week.

    The course ises a book called "Healing Spaces" by Micahel Burns. I try to trun everything I do into a restorative based moment…or teachable opportunity.

    I started to class by having them depart from the norm and move all the desks back and create one large circle. This is when the stares and scowls come from people in the hallway…implied is "all that noise…what's goin on?"

    Now the background to this "moment" is taht last year I bought about 20 walking sticks from a dollar store which have been kicking around for aboiut a year. They have been patiently lying there for me to decide to do something with them..probably turn them into talking pieces. Howver nothing like that has happened although I have now given half of them away as gifts..and my 3 boys have all snatched one each for our walks on the trail.

    Anyway one had been taken this Halloween wek to be converted into a wizards stick with an eye screwed to the top that went off intermittently when the bottom of the stick was struck on the ground.

    I brought this in (with my belated Halloween costume) to liven up the first class since it was about icebreakers and getting to know each other.

    Spontaneously I handed the wizard stick with glow in the dark eyeball to one of the class members and said pass it on….but you have to keep the eye shining.

    This became the unplanned teachable moment. Now 50 people were given the opportunity and challenge to "keep the eye lighted"…."to take the eye in the group and care for it and move it one"….to ensure tht no I will be alone in the group (I told that we had to have empty chairs for all new/latecomers since our job as facilitators and circle members was to be open and prepared for the next person and be able to welcome them into the circle and to leave no one alone or shut out.

    So….20 walking stick in a trunk…45 students….one flashing eyeball… large circle… crazy teacher….circel maker and keeper…..and a whole lot of serendipitous moments that became learning, teaching, knowledge.

    This to me is the everyday magic and practice of circles. Put people together and let them be held in the invisible embrace of the circel that envelopes everyone and if there is enough safety and trust what is buried in the group….potential, knowledge, thoughts, feelings will rise to the suffer. Is that the proverbial cream? In my experience yes.

    Thanks for spurring me on to have second and third thoughts about what I was part of.