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!