Agree-ers don’t realize they are judging. Restorative Justice Circles work best when non-judgemental.

I have been in lots and lots of Restorative Justice Circles.  They work best and feel the most natural when all of the concepts are being followed by everyone.

Once in awhile you a person in the Circle, who just does not percieve themselves as not following the concepts.  They are great listeners and excellent “reflectors”.  They can communicate so much, in this “under the radar”, indirect way.  They might simply give a “mMMm” that really means: I so agree with what you are say, oh please say more!

A “HmmMmm” that says: Oh, I hadn’t thought of that before!  Now that you said it, I understand.

I have found the mmHmm’ers are few and far between.  It might be a and quiet, “yep” or a “uh-huh”.  These people are good, they slide these in at the end of a sentance.  They don’t interupt the person, necessarily and it hardly appears they distrupt the process.  For me, it is disruptive.

When you speak (or hum) when you are not holding the talking piece, you are disrespecting the speaker, everyone else in Circle and the process itself.  That may sound harsh, but let me explain.  (I do realize I am judging the person for judging!)

It disrepects the speaker, because it takes from their turn.  Part of the Circle concept that works, is taking turns and honoring the talking piece.  That means all noises.  It means putting “we” ahead of “me”.  When you think of it, isn’t it better to give the entire Circle uninterupted opportunity to listen, that to voice out your agreements? 

When you mMhmm in Circle, you are breaking the concentration of others trying to listen.  What about the one person who got all the uh-huh’s and the person that didn’t?  The process gets disrespected because you have violated the non-judgemental intention of the Circle.

You cannot hear with static in the background.  Judgement has no place in Circle, it is static in the background.  Having a space to speak without judgement is the greatest gift we can give someone.  I believe non-judgemental listening says to the other:  I see you, I trust you enough to listen to you, JUST as a witness to you.  Non-judgmental listening encourages the other person to be their best selves.  Student don’t have to show off or one up each other in a Circle because each is being taken in and accepted for who they are.

When we judge people for the worse, we know we are judging.  When you judge the person in a manner of support, agreement, validation you are judging them for the better and we don’t always think of that as being judgemental.

What if someone speaking was full of it!  What if they talked long enough they would recognize they were full of it?  All that mmHmm, and uh-huh wouldn’t give the person space to figure it out!  They’s never explore another option!

We are taught to care.  Circles are about compassion.  We want to affirm, assure and support people.  We need to remember that our silence is a good tool for that as well.

I’ve learned to address alot of unCircle-like behavior without calling out one person, or shaming in anyway.  I find it is best to focus on what you want from people rather than what you don’t want.  I’ll be playing a humming game or something next time I have one of my known “affirmers” in the Circle!  I believe the best path to change is when a person makes a choice for themselves, I just need to show where choices are.  If you give people the choice of a productive Circle and being part of a greater good, they usually make that choice.   Can I get a strong UH-HUH here please?

Restorative Justice Circle implementation PBIS viewed from the top, an “Olive” or not?

I printed a flyer: Why_Restorative_Justice_WORKS_for_bully_behavior[1] and it explains the use of Circles for all aspects of behavior in PBIS and

My first presentation on the concept was at the Minnesota Department of Education, week long training on School-based Restorative Measures.  The lead trainer Nancy Riestenberg and fellow Circle keeper Jamie Williams, both laughed with me about an Olive not having yellow in the center.  We did think maybe they got filled with cream cheese and the pimento returned.  Maybe?

I’ve searched the internet now, no luck at finding olives with a yellow center.  I guess just like I see Circles everywhere, I can imagine an olive with a yellow center.

I did find a few cute photos of olives.     Even without these looking like the PBIS triangle from the top . . . I believe the use of Circles in school, will have your students smiling like these Olives.

Besides, it’s a little family fun, to mouth “Olive juice” and know it means “I love you”.

Community Circles before Conflict Resolution Circles and always the Restorative Justice Circle process stages.

This post contains some recommendations for those of you using Circle process in a school or classroom setting.  You will want to develop the students awareness of the process.  By using Circles to “build” community you prevent harm.  The more you know about someone the less likely you are to hurt them.  Hurt people hurt others.  Community Circles can help students process their hurts.  Conflict resolution circles, are specific to hurts that have developed.

You cannot hold someone accountable if you don’t have a relationship.  Building relationships is crucial to everything we do.  Relationships influence us, even if they are at different degrees.  Relationships of influence are ones from Consequential Strangers  (other CS posts) to family members.  By building up relationships and using Circle, you create a safe space to talk about the difficult topics.  Students get a feel for processing in an equal and structured setting.  This is very different from other types of settings.  You infuse the non-judgement.  You reinforce this container (circle) is strong.  Someone recently commented that although Circle can be similar to an AA meeting, the part for him that was very different was the non-judgment.  He explained that in AA you worry about what you are going to say as your turn approaches, and after you worry if what you said was “good” enough.  Several heads nodded at that comment.  Being in a space where we aren’t judging each other allows us a sense of value and acceptance.  Have you ever known anyone who didn’t like feeling valued and accepted?

You can gather a group together and do a conflict resolution circle – prepare parties ahead of time.  Do the “pre-conferencing” or pre-circle work.  I have posts here at Circlespace that address that skill.  To go to fully implemented, to use the Circle as a classroom tool, to be a fully active Restorative Practices, Restorative Measures, Restorative Action school, you should be doing the process on all levels.  PBIS triangle here, or public health model: universal, selected, indicated.

The other import aspect of using Circles consistently is to be consistent in the approach and using the stages.  You can slightly modify the stages, however you still need to be using the values in the first stage.  If you are doing community building Circles, the third stage of addressing issues, can simply be a focus on a value, or having students share about their classroom community.

Familiar breeds comfort, and our comfort level with something leads to being our true and authentic selves with it.  By doing community building Circles, you also build up your habits as a good Circle keeper.  If you rush into doing a conflict resolution circle and it doesn’t go well, you can set back the implementation process.  Building up the process for success helps it on many different levels.

Good Luck!

Striving to be in life, exactly how and who I am in Restorative Justice Circle process.

Restorative Justice Circles leave people feeling refreshed, hopeful and connected.  I know this from hearing countless reflections, and my own experiences.  I asked a Circle (that meets monthly) if there was anything more needed from the Circle.  The round began with a firm affirmation about how much Circle already gives, the joke: other than handing out cash at the door, it couldn’t be any better.

In Circle:

  • It is not about the keeper, it is about the process.
  • It is about the values placed in the center, reminding all of us to stay with things like trust, love, understanding, honesty, caring.

In Life:

  • it is not about Kris, it is about all of us.
  • it is about living in good relationships to others, using the values of humankind.

I seem to have the Circle thing working out.  I want to be more like I am in Circle . . . ALLLL the time! 

In Circle:

  • I listen (and without judgement)
  • I share from a place of good and heart centered
  • I don’t interrupt
  • I place WE ahead of ME
  • I bring and act on the values in the center
  • I lead with gentleness (or try anyway)

In Life:

  • well . . . I am at a restructuring place.  I don’t always do as I would like.

At this very moment, I am struggling a bit.  A friend and I haven’t had a “not speaking” phase in 14 years.  That hurts, and yet I am sitting with it, unsure what to do.  We are here because I said something unnecessary and rude.  So now, my person I would tell all my stuff to, isn’t in my life. 

Stress at the office got to a “boiling point”.  We fixed it, talked and hugged.  I left with feedback that I am a perfectionist.  I am involved in all aspects of SCVRJP. Sometimes (others might say never) I don’t let people do it any other way, than mine.  I am a task assigner who can only explain some of what is in my head, or my ADD, I move on before explaining the rest.  Yet, I expect those doing tasks for me, to know the entire picture.  I assign multiple tasks in the middle of a person working.  I change speeds, I take on more than I can or should and start to delegate where people never had a voice.  As you can tell by the paragraph here, I am not in a place of celebrating and honoring my strengths or accomplishments (right now).

It is a fact of life, but I have to say: Stress is a bitch.  I don’t do well with it.  I don’t have time for it.  I ignore it.  I fight it.  I try to punch it in the face and run away.  I lie about having it, “those hives must have been something I ate” (they lasted 6 months)!  I’m human, and we all have those certain neurosis that come with being human.  Who hasn’t had the discomfort of stress, coworker conflict, fights with a friend, concern about your job?  I however, experience life deeply and passionately, my ebb and flow is more like drought and tsunami.  I cried on the way to work, I cleared the day and came home to take care of myself.  I called a different friend for support.  I cried again disappointed I am a failure at taking care of myself and having a life outside of work.

To take on life, like I am in Circle, I needed a place to tell the truth.  This is the blog post of me telling the truth about how I am, right now at this moment.  So friends, who are going to call and ask me, you know I will be in a better place, I just told the whole world how this was going! 

So now I can laugh at myself, come full circle on this, return to my self-help books about being a perfectionist.  Appreciate people who explain our differences so we can move forward productively.  And, most importantly thank my lucky stars I was exposed to the process of Circle, which brings me back to the person I most hope to be.

And THANK YOU blog readers, for being part of this journey!

Bully Intervention and the Power of Circles. Guest Post by Matthew Kuehlhorn

Today’s post is provided by my friend Matt, we met through social media at first, he’s providing some great reflection on Circles in Schools.  Check out his work at  I recommend his book Bully, if you work with teens!


Bullying Intervention and the Power of Circles

My literal stumble into <a href=>teaching about bullying</a> was prompted with a colleague of mine, who is a Middle School Counselor, when she told me she wanted a book that taught Restorative Justice to her students.  Back then my reply was “Restorative Justice, what’s that?”

The journey began on that day and has not stopped since.  That was in 2008.  Since this time I have had several conversations with industry leaders, Kris Miner being one of them, attended international and regional conferences, and read up on research and additional literature regarding restorative justice use, primarily in the schools.

What I love about the stories and the process is using the Circle.  Sitting down with people in a circle brings so much power to any situation.

I am an experiential educator and have taught for twelve years now.  I began my career in the outdoor classroom guiding classes through five day expedition trips.  I would teach about ecology, biology, and other academic focuses while also teaching outdoor skills.  We had to address relationships in our days as there was no Principal’s office to send students to when conflicts arose.

We used circles multiple times a day.  We sat around fires, we had group meetings, we made decisions, and we resolved conflict all in circle.  In the outdoors this is how people naturally congregate.

When working in a classroom I do enjoy circles still and will oftentimes find a way to get students working together within a circle.  Though desks can be awkward, we will stand, or arrange, the room before student’s arrival.

When students get into a circle I immediately notice a change.  Everyone is seeing the other students and the circle brings equalization to the room that was not there before.  The circle arrangement alone can offer prevention to behavior disruptions and relationship conflicts.  This can occur before any facilitation!

The next piece I incorporate with circles is a conversation around guidelines.  Many schools bring in Positive Behavior and Support (PBiS) programs which I really do love.  The PBiS model, as I understand it from a conversation with the Colorado State Director, is simply training students in guidelines for the school.  This is broken down into how we act in the bathroom, hallways, classroom, etc.  Then the teachers and coaches train the kids in these guidelines and good result follow.  What I find limiting to this model is that the guidelines are created by teachers, administrators and perhaps students from one year’s class (or partial class).  A more effective way to engage and empower the students you are working with now is to enroll them in the creation of their own classroom’s guidelines.

Once this is established, which may take three or more meetings to get detailed out, students and teachers have a system by which to hold themselves and others accountable.  Therefore, when Thomas steps out of line with the guidelines that he helped to created and signed off on, someone in the classroom can point this out to him and everyone knows exactly what the next steps are.  Thomas is not removed from the classroom and people learn to make mistakes, be accountable and take corrective actions.

This is all powerful prevention.

Bullying Intervention is built on top of this system.  When circles are used regularly, students and teachers learn about people’s needs.  When a person is bullying another there is an underlying need which is a driving force for the action.  It can certainly be a learned skill and under that skill is a need to prove oneself or to be accepted by another person.  The needs of people must be uncovered before bullying can be addressed and intervention successful.

Building a framework with circles is the powerful solution to being proactive and reactive when addressing bullying.  Regular use of circles can build community in the classroom that promotes people’s success, supported by every community member.

The impact of teaching with Restorative Justice Circle process.

 I attended the first National Restorative Justice Conference in 2007.  A small gathering happened at breakfast for those teaching Restorative Justice.  I “crashed” and met Don Haldeman, who shared his course syllabus.  I went back to Wisconsin, and 7 months later I was teaching at the local campus.  The 3 credit course is a special topics 300 level course.  Many students are sociology majors and criminal justice minors.  I took some lines from their final papers, a class reflection.

This is the only class that I can say I honestly changed from what I learned.


 More than anything I learned things about myself that I did not know before.  This class has taught me a great deal about myself.  After sharing things about my life to the class I had a change to open up and think about my life in the past, present and future.  I got to think of such things as all of the decisions I have made, who has been affected by them, and how I can make better decisions in the future.  I learned that I am an equally good speaker as I am listener.  I also learned that once I get to know others, after a while I tend to start opening up and say things that I normally would not about myself

The number one thing I learned about others is not to judge someone before you get to know who they are.

I think restorative justice has shown me that there is good in everyone and a majority of the time once people see how many individuals are affected by their decisions they feel remorse for what they have done.

 At first when I walked into class and saw that we were sitting in a circle I felt a bit strange and it felt like I was in some sort of rehabilitation center.  But now . . . I would recommend it when I am with a group of people . . . now it feels natural and it is interesting just how sitting in a circle can change how you speak and see people.  I will miss sitting in circle because it seems like the natural way of solving issues and treating people equally.

 It is safe to say that this class has made me into a better, speaker, listener, and thinker and I now feel more prepared to go out into the world directly because of this class.


 I had absolutely no idea what this class was about, but I enrolled in it.  What I have gotten out of CJ 389 was something that will be in my heart and soul forever.  When Kris explained that the class was not a traditional criminal justice course, but a different topic called Restorative Justice . . . I honestly felt like I had lost all interest in taking the course.  I was looking forward to learning about laws and court, not about how we can “fix” our wrongdoings.

 It was a great experience, being about to share moments and feelings about myself with my fellow classmates using the circle process.  The circle was something I’ve never even heard of before, but it grew on me very quickly . . . it allows people to openly express their life stories and helps them to become better listeners as well.

 One thing this style of learning has really strengthened for me is understanding the pasts of certain people that help to shape who they are right now.  Before, it was very easy for me to be judgmental about people, but now, with what I’ve learned here, I can better see who they really are.

 Overall, what I got out of the Restorative Justice experience is something that will stay with me until the day I die.  It has helped to bring out and shape who I really am and has also aided me in finding the right career.

 I would recommend this course to anybody . . . going in to criminal justice, along with anyone else who needs help with finding who they are or finding peace with themselves.  This course was an absolute life changing experience for me, and I would would enroll in it again in a heartbeat if I had the change.  Our world is far from perfect, but Restorative Justice is definitely one massive step closer in the right direction.


 This class was not just teaching an alternative style, it was an alternative.  This involvement helps see things through other people’s eyes and how the world around us in viewed.  This is created by the circle process.  This is the only classroom on campus that uses the circle as an everyday standard to each clas period.  By having a circle as the classroom setting . . . we were able to talk to everyone . . .  with everyone an equal.  This is a great bridign between the classroom and the circle process.  By having a circle every day we were exposed daily to the foundation of restorative justice, which is respect.  By letting me speak in class, restorative justice has made this a class, in which I made mine by letting me share my ideas and thoughts.


 I feel that the whole class became closer as a result of the circle process.  We were able to learn many things about each other that we otherwise would not have known in a regular class setting.  I have become more attached to my classmates here than in any other class.  It is very intimate so you can talk about touchy subjects without the worry of backlash or ridicule.  I felt completely comfortable saying what was on my mind or how I thought about certain things.  I knew that no one in the class would laugh at me or go tell their friends after class about what I had said.


 I believe that bringing in values in the circle is the critical piece to making everybody safe and open up.  I have never experienced a space where people come together and share personal stories like they do in restorative circles.  I always leave a circle feeling really good.  I think schools need to implement more circles in classrooms starting in elementary.  If children can experience this and talk about finding in a safe, open environment that the circle process offers while teaching them about values I can only help to develop healthy growth.


 Having class in circles was very different at first.  At first I was uncomfortable with having to face everyone and having everyone see my every move.  That to me was a little bit invasive, but I got over it soon because everyone had to do it, so I guess we all shared the awkwardness.  Having class in a circle was a lot of fun once I got used to it.  I started to warm up quickly.  The part that I liked best about the circles was the plates and talking peace.  Having class in a circle gave me a new way to listen in class.


Common sense circle caution, using restorative justice process with youth.

My favorite way to do restorative justice is with Circle process.  I have developed a clear structured style of using 4 stages.  If you aren’t familiar with that, you could read all the entires in the category: circle stages.  The other basic restorative justice circle elements include those described by Kay Pranis.  By keeping certain common elements of Circle, like the use of ritual/opening and a talking piece you can provide structure that allows people a freedom to share and open up.

Although the structure and elements of Circle should prevail, common sense (which has become for to uncommon) should also be used.

Prepare.  An important aspect of Restorative Justice is to prepare the parties to be together.  To understand the intentions of restorative justice.  This takes skills, you don’t control the outcome, because the process creates the outcome.  This can also take preparation of yourself, to let go.

Prevent wrong.  If you have students in conflict, make sure agreements are in place about taking breaks.  Make sure you have spoken with the students about handling listening, if strong feelings come up.  Because you prepare people in the process of Circle, with opening, into and acquainted phases, these lead to space of understanding.

Practice your habits.  The common sense part here, is to implement the process correctly, by setting up yourself to develop the skills.  If you are learning to cook, you don’t tackle the hardest recipe that requires special tools you don’t have.  You would start where you are, obtain the skill and knowledge, the special tools and move on.

If you have a weak Circle, don’t abandon the process.  Some Circles are a home-run!  Some Circles are a base hit.  Seldom do they strike out completely.  Very, seldom in my experience.  I believe in this process and after facilitating 1,000’s it has become embedded in who I am.  That would not have happened if I had given up.  If you can find the common sense and practicality of including your personality with the elements of the process I think you will have success.

Other common sense reminders:  Circle confidentiality does not cover “mandating reporting” topics.  If a student makes a disclosure, they are ready for the process to begin.  Depending on the Circle and circumstances, I would make sure that was addressed somehow.  Follow-up one to one, or a clarification about keeper making the report.

Balance the context of your Circle, in a juvenile detention center we met right before meal time, the youth had a natural transition and knew when to respect the time.  When a school was only able to give short amounts of time, we held the prep meetings, but conducted the problem solving circle after school, so we had more time.

Being a keeper is a rewarding experience.  The process is rich, a technology that lets people be the best they can.  Listening to others, really listening is something anyone can give to another.  You feel better when you give.  You also feel better when validated and listened to, common sense things, that only a Circle process and provide equally to a group.

Bullying, cliques, and pecking order, reduced with restorative process.

Conflict starts with misunderstanding, difference of opinion, something we thought should happen, doesn’t.  Some people put others down, mock or make fun of another.  Done repeatedly it is bullying.

When youth see differences between groups, they are in cliques.  Groups start to line up against each other.  The have’s and the have not’s.  The pecking order starts to get worked as groups challenge each other or try become the most of the clique they are in.

When you place students in Circle, they have the opportunity to learn more about each other.  Learning about each other helps them know they are more than the clique they may represent of be involved in.  Students will find out about each other in ways they are not given opportunity otherwise.  By practicing social skills in Circle, students are able to learn the process, while developing the simple skills of speaking and listening.

The focus on values helps melt away the issues of bullying, cliques and pecking orders.  You can’t laugh and cry at the same time.  You can’t hold judgements and be open to learning at the same time.  When listening to someone, you can place yourself in their story.  Circles structure listening and speaking and students are generally curious about each other.  Empathy grows in Circle.

Students can collectively relate how bullying and cliques impact them, without having to point out a particular student or resolve a conflict.

When I teach RJ, I really advocate that you HAVE to teach students the process, before you introduce conflict resolution into the process.

Circles that follow a structure of getting acquainted, building relationships, addressing issues and taking action provide support, stucture and a container to strong enough to hold the difficult topics.

Students behave differently in Circle, they really honor the values, and make space to speak and listen to each other.  When you can get students to relate to each other differently, it can change the relationship they have with each other.

My experiences have been consistent, youth take to circle like fish to water, or kites to air.  You can gain valuable practice as a keeper by beginning with basic skills in circle.  Habits need to be practiced and developed, Circle keeping has basic habits.  Be yourself, be genuine, guide the questions, monitor the emotional climate, role model the process.Circle Stages

In the society, community and family of Restorative Justice, 3rd National Conference 2011.

I have attended 3 of the 3 National Restorative Justice Conferences.  I am typing this blog from the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel in Raleigh, host of the most recent meeting.  I stayed tonight, the conference ended at noon.  Instead of being surrounded by familiar faces, and at the very least, people in orange lanyards, I am here alone.  I am feeling lost in a mystery of something much bigger than myself.  This is a feeling that only being alone, without lonliness can provide.

I knew that this would be a transformative adventure.  I hardly leave home without one!  Why not make the most of your travels by ascribing meaning and setting yourself up to a different (hopefully better) person from going from point A to point B and back again!  I haven’t even made it home and I know I am very, very different.

My adventure began by picking up Kay Pranis, and traveling out of Minneapolis together.  I love Kay, she really embodies the spirt and essence of a restorative justice circle practitioner.  We were joined at the gate by Mark Umbriet, and I sat speechless, as the conversation included comparisions of criminal justice reforms, via restorative justice and health care, plant care, food systems and health.  I was practically tongue tied as my thoughts drifted from the conversation to the the experience of sitting with these two pioneeers of this movement.  They so very humbly, chatted with me about these issues.

Breakfast day 1, Mark Yantzi.  Hmmm, voice clear.  You know the history of Restorative Justice includes the first form of a conference in 1974 of which Mark was the Probation Agent.  He was unassuming, polite, kind and I referenced my connections with the client he took from home to home, Russ Kelly.

My friend Harold presented, he’s been at all 3 conferences, doing great work in prisons in Missouri.  I love Marilyn Armour, blogged about her before.  Our conference was woven together by musical phenom, David LaMotte, who so gently, eloquently weaved his gifts of song, songwrititng and humanitarianism, right into our conference.

Love was in the air.  I was so happy to connect with friends that were on the planning committee, and who helped me help the conference book sales and exhibit booths.  To see an excel spreadsheet of titles and authors turned into a room of resources was a remarkable feeling.  Many of the authors were in attendance at this conference.  Right now, my most recent facebook photo is with Howard Zehr.  Outside of all of us doing our practice in our communities, it doesn’t get anymore grass roots.

I love Dr Micheal Gilbert, he is a wonderful human being.  We chatted about the first conference, his connection to that.  We had a few laughs when I said the first conference “felt” grassroots.  He promptly told me that was because, “it was!”.

I hope for those of you that attended, my experience is a reminder and validation for all that you experienced.  For those of you unable to attend, I hope this blog post shares how close our family of restorative justice really is.  We are all part of a healing wave.  We are taking root, we are growing and nurturing a way for our futures and our children’s futures.

I feel blessed to part of this.  I acknowledge all of you and thank you.

5 crucial Restorative concepts for schools and trainers.

School-based Restorative Justice – Restorative Practices – Restorative Measures . . . In my opinion, they all funnel down to practices in school designed to influence the general culture (everyone in a community) and provide individual interventions (case specific).

When I first started training schools, I used the same process for developing new programs at St Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program, SCVRJP.  This was to hold the concepts of Circle/Restorative Justice and place with that, the issue/topic/intervention.  This seems to be working.  Imagine two halves of a plastic egg coming together. 

Photo from:

The sum of what you create is the force of nature.  I was familiar with school-based work before I started training.  I also had experience working with alternative schools, school-within-a-school programs and providing trainings about Restorative Justice to school staff.

Teaching teachers . . . it’s a career accomplish to say I feel competent.  No offense, it’s like trying to put a stand-up comedian up in front of his or her peers!  The audience/trainer dynamic is very important, very, very important when implementing restorative justice in schools.  A thank you to those that helped me be a better trainer and an apology to those that had me when I was new!  So concept 1: get a good, experienced trainer!

Concept 2: Exclusion is a form of violence.  Do not try to merge your restorative practice with a formal response like sending youth out to a different room.  Restorative Justice is about the dialogue between those impacted.  The people most involved in an incident come up with ways to make it right.  A teacher is speaking out against restorative practices, and from what I read, she was not part of any process to make it right.

Concept 3: Time.  Teachers, I need you to know and trainers you have to teach/convince/get school staff to try to understand – RJ will give you more time in your class.  School staff are overwhelmed!  I can have a to do list, but I don’t have to spend all day in an appointment, 5 days a week.  Consider that teachers have a to-do list AND are busy all day.  The days that I went to schools and helped coach (a follow-up to training) and did Circle after Circle, one class to another – I nearly lost my mind!  The teacher’s lounge was a safe place!  After being around all those little bodies, all that different energy, managing all those little voices, little hands, little feet . . . whew I was WIPED out!  Tell me to try one more thing that seems “kumbaya” . . . pfffffffff!    I have that perspective and I’m the advocate/trainer!  I have compassion for the teachers – I get their environment.  It is that passion, for both teachers and restorative justice that you need to bring.  You need to help teachers see that this tool will create a better environment for their class.  The distractions that take up time will be reduced, the time spent doing discipline will be reduced, the connections to kids will be improved, the satisfaction with teaching will be improved.

Concept 4: Heart.  Kids that need you will push you away.  You have to bring a heart that believes in the heart of each and every student.  This is not easy.  Every cell in your body maybe thinking or feeling “you little . . . rascal”.  However, if you believe in the heart of that kid, and you use your own heart to lead you to find out what makes that kid tick, you will change that child’s life forever.  As I re-read this concept, my lips got tight and I felt angry, “you little . . .” I thought about when I feel wronged, I feel justified in my anger.  Justified anger causes trouble.  As I read on about the heart, I felt my anger go down, I thought about the compassion in my heart.  I thought about the times I listened and came to new understandings.

I thought about the student who acknowledged she didn’t want to be in the Circle.  She went on to talk about the fight with her step mom that morning.  She talked about the long-standing conflict, she took ownership about her statements that caused harm that morning and she even expressed maybe doing something different.  Imagine being in a little body of 13 and having that kind of conflict before school.

The more you use your heart, with students, with conflict, with others, the more you have a compassion skill set.  The easier it is to access this and have it work for you and for others.  Concept 5) make the path to compassion.