Attention schools: 3 reasons for “primary” Circles, before “secondary” or “tertiary”.

The PBIS or public health models work perfectly with Restorative Justice Circles.

I am not sure of another process that can be used at each of the Tiers.  Restorative Justice Circles work on each and every level with only slight modifications to the questions used.

Skills developed by participating in the primary levels, benefit on the secondary and tertiary levels.

Soon your school will bring issues to the Circle, and they can soooo simply and easily be resolved.

A student shared with his helper, feelings about younger students asking questions and touching him and his wheelchair.  Staff called on the schools “Circle”-teacher.  She interviewed the student, asking what would be okay for other students to do.  The kindergarten “finger wave” was determined as the behavior to replace.  The Circle-teacher, facilitated the session, even bringing in a wheelchair to the center for a check in on all students knowing what it was.  Each student acknowledged being willing and able to do the finger wave.  Situation resolved, students concerns addressed, respected.

This worked because this school climate, uses Circles.  I teach and probably over-preach – do the community building Circle BEFORE you do the other kinds of Circles.  Another post regarding, here.

I went ahead and did a conflict resolution circle, with a group fairly new to the process.  I only had one experienced member.  I learned a few things, and discovered some reasons why I teach & preach this.

3 reasons to practice circle, before resolving conflict.

1)Circle is for each and every person present.  The un-experienced behavior that presented itself was a speaker asking questions while holding the talking piece.  The questions were directed at the 3 present because they had caused harm.  SOLUTION:  when you have Circle experience, you learn that your wisdom from speaking from the heart, telling a story, a lesson, an experience can help everyone else.  Circle, is not the communication space for trying to get someone else to think differently by rhetorical questions.  This kind of behavior excludes those that caused harm from the Circle.  Circles are about inclusion and community.  Those harmed and the community need the Circle as much as those who caused the harm.

2)Learning to listen.  Circle experience in a community building setting, teaches listening without responding.  The un-experienced behavior was raising a hand to talk.  SOLUTION:  Community building Circles are non-threatening, no one person or harm is the focus.  Participants learn the ease of listening without preparing a response.  You learn to notice, bookmark your thought and wait for the talking piece.  This skill is learned effortlessly in community building circles, you leave going “wow, I really feel connected or like I know people”.  Listening without forming a response needs to be learned and the only way to learn it is to do it, in Circle.

3)Time savings.  When people know there are 4 stages to Circle, you save time, because everyone in the Circle can help manage the time.  When short on time, I asked for consensus to keep going for an extra 10 minutes.  We still went over 10 minutes, and barely did the last stage.  We didn’t have much reflection or take-away time.  SOLUTION:  These stages are so important.  The Circle members get to turn-around reflect back on the collective experience.  Collective experiences build community.  Strong communities have less harm.  Strong communities have healthier individuals.

To a person new to Circle, you might not have even seen these.  The Circle is so strong, it can carry itself.  Having done 100’s, I know the difference and behaviors present when people are familiar with this process.

You have to experience it.  You can read about riding a bike and swimming, but you’ve got to be on the bike or in the pool to really really “get it”.  It is so different from day-to-day interactions and teaching settings and school structures.  Circles work, and if you want them to REALLY, REALLY work, practice with community building – for the teachers skills, for the students comfort and for the school community.