Campus Restorative Justice as a community non-profit.

I feel in love with Restorative Justice in the late 90’s.  The first training left me a bit confused, maybe I should say “challenged”.  At that time, I was working from a place of ego than compassion.  I saw the families on my caseload as very different from me.  I was missing the basic humanity and the fact that we are all interconnected (click to tweet).  I put a wedge/distance between us because I hadn’t yet faced many of my own pains.  It is our suffering connects us the quickest (tweet).  Last night in Circle, as soon as someone opened up, “went there” and shared about a harm, the rest of the Circle members became more engaged, more open.  I feel far more effective as a “helper” these days than back in the late 90’s.  THANK YOU IIRP for bringing that first training session to town!  Thank you the State of Minnesota for implementing a Restorative Justice Planner!

It is not the 90’s anymore.  I’ve seen trends come in, tried to understand where they came from what was intended.  Some very good, like the expansion of Restorative Justice to college campus.  Some concerning for example, blueprint layouts for a prison called Restorative Justice (visiting areas designed to be circular).  Some changes are needed, as Restorative Justice learned, shifted, grew, it became more defined.  Teen Court is not Restorative Justice and we need to put each on a clear path and not co-mingle the two.

Campus programs, like community, school or prison programs of Restorative Justice can start from many places.  Sometimes a pressing need appears and Restorative Justice is brought in.  In some instances, the shift in addressing student misconduct is evaluated and a new way emerges, the new way selected is Restorative.  Restorative Justice in all areas (not just campus)  works best when designed for 3 areas.  The first to focus on the community culture over all, Circles to connect – reaffirm relationships, the second for at-risk places or where we need to rebuild relationships, and finally when a wrong-doing has occurred, Circles to repair-relationships.

The story of St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP)- and our local campus University of Wisconsin River Falls, has all of the elements I mentioned above.  SCVRJP has been called upon to come and facilitate for community building.  Specifically with Destination students – teaching the tool of Circle Keeping – to trip leaders.  Service learning has a component of reflection.  Circles make great containers for this type of deep reflection.  They especially help students cross-pollinate the good in each other.

SCVRJP and UWRF have worked side by side to address specific harms on campus.  We’ve taken referrals and worked with students who experienced conflict.  SCVRJP responded when a student died on campus, we held a Circle to support and grieve together.  Students use to pass into the criminal justice system from campus, mostly for underage consumption.  Now, the campus housing policy, sends them directly to SCVRJP.  Not only has this has brought fewer appearances in court, an officer was quoted in saying few incidents of passed out students on campus.

Our local non-profit provides students a service learning site, internships, we speak at campus programming.  After a few semesters off, I am back to teaching a class on campus.  Budget cuts and financial adjustments caused the break.

So now, SCVRJP is seeing more campuses represented at our training sessions!  Housing staff, student responsibility leaders from different campuses and programs are coming to the two-day Circle Training.  Many campuses are developing internal programs each designed to suit the needs of their campus.  We’ve provided training specifically to campus staff and are available to contract for training events.

The housing professionals from the ATCCHA schools who attended the October 28, 2011 professional development session at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls found the presentation by Kris Miner of the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Center to be professional, informative and enlightening.  Kris did an excellent job of sharing information not only on the tenants of restorative justice, but how it can be applied and utilized by student conduct administrators.  Staff in attendance felt that the presentation met the need they had to learn more about this topic.

Sandi Scott Duex, Director of Residence Life/Student Rights & Responsibilities University of Wisconsin – River Falls

Caution and blessing, Restorative Justice Circles can quickly create a culture.

When Kay Pranis and Jennifer Ball came to visit SCVRJP, they met with a few of our volunteers and stayed for a Controlled Substance Intervention Circle.  I realized that SCVRJP has developed a culture of Circles.  As we spoke about our work, it was consistent from Underage Consumption Panels to Circles with alternative school students, SCVRJP has a consistent method and manner for our Circle work.

I stick closely to Restorative Justice values, I do all I can to make sure our volunteers, community representatives are aware of the Mission, Vision and Values of this work.  SCVRJP Circles have consistent Restorative Justice Circle elements, consistently.  I have 253 posts on this topic of Circle process.  Each year we keep the paper plates stacked in an area and we watch them grow.  I still have 2011 plates in my office and when you have a meeting with me, you sit right in front of that stack of values.

I recently helped in a North St. Paul elementary school, spent the day going class to class introducing Circle.  The school is implementing Olweus.  I don’t align with some of the methods, however I do support a great deal of it (anything that excludes, in my opinion is perpetuating violence).  This day in the Elementary school, was not my first, I did some training there a few years ago.  Circles are used consistently, classroom morning meeting, school wide Circles to address situations that could erupt in the school.  They even do Circles to support students during difficult times.  I heard a great story about preparing students for a school break, and how they loved hearing a perspective from the school police-liasion officer.

Students in 5th grade, had been in Circles since 3rd grade.  They had been in Circles for the beginning and end of the day, those students KNOW Circle.  They let me know, my Circle was not long enough!  They knew the basics for Circle in their community:  tell the truth, eyes on speaker, quiet hands and feet and listen.  These 4 were simply the theme of the Circles I helped conduct in the school that day.  I realized the school has developed its own culture for their Circles, an effective means for using the process, consistent patterns for communicating for community building and for problem solving.

SCVRJP also holds Victim Empathy Seminars.  We’ve had a few that ended without participants recognizing the harm to the greater community.  I heard feedback to the point I called someone into the office to talk about it.  I hadn’t been keeping those Circles and I had an opportunity to get back to it recently.  When we did the 3rd stage of the Circle, the Community Representatives all passed.  This was something different, I always prepare people and enourage them to role model, and not pass.   The next round the Community Representatives all passed the piece across and over the participants.  I was nearly having a panic attack!  This style didn’t demonstrate core Circle values.  I was feeling uncomfortable, I realized something had developed in our culture that was inconsistent with our vision.

What happened in that moment was a division between us and them.  NOT a quality of Circle.  It became clear to me, that a pattern of doing the VES emerged, a new aspect to the culture.  When I got the talking piece, I immediately changed it out and addressed this.  I pointed out I was confused by the community representative passing and then the round where the talking piece did not go person to person.  I explained the next round going to each person directly.  I reaffirmed that the Circle is about equality.  Then I specifically framed a question everyone in Circle could answer.

What is important in being a good citizen?  If you had a do-over about your citizenship what would it be?

This round had each and every person answering.  This round also had each and every person being teacher and student.  I saw people finish the Circle with accountability and realizations that they caused harm and can move on in a better way.  I even got a new volunteer out of the mix, demonstrating our inclusiveness was effective in growing our community.  Even with a strong committment to a culture, it is important to always make sure the culture is consistent with key values.

Fear, nervous energy, anxiety all acceptable before Circle-keeping.

I have a reverance for the Circle process.  Specifically, the Restorative Justice Circle process as I learned it, from Kay Pranis, Linda Wolf, Jamie Williams, Oscar Reed, and many, many, many people who have joined me in Circles over the past 6 years.  By reverance, I mean a deep respect and knowledge that the concept of Circle (intentionally capatilized) is in our DNA.  To provide equal respect, for me, is a way to honor the divine in all of us.  So if you are about to embark on your journey as a Circle-keeper, if you are new to using this technology, then fear, nervous energy and anxiety might all be part of it, and I find that a good thing.

In Kay’s book Peacemaking Circles, she shares the importance of preparing by centering.  I used this guidance,  I was anxious when I started, I would have notes about the questions I prepared, words listed as tips for me to say about opening a Circle.  I feel now, that a focused inhale can prepare me.  Well, I also exhale!  I was talking to someone today, it was an interview that was a good conversation.  I kept wanting to offer, what I wish I might have heard before keeping my first Circle.  I offered support for those feelings of anxiety or fear.  Maybe just nervous energy.  I think these things are good, when we care about doing well we can get nervous not wanting to do harm or to complicate matters.

Circlekeeping shouldn’t feel like the same old, same old kind of faciliatation.  Circlekeeping is keeping the form and funtion of Circle above individual agenda’s – keeper or attendee.  The form and function of Circle is to be grounded in Restorative Justice and specifically the value of respect.  I think it starts with the respect to the process of Circle.

Classroom Circle UWRF

I wish you well as you try this.  I encourage training, training and reading.  Then find a mentor to discuss your plans with.  Engage yourself in learning about, doing and developing your Circlekeeping skills.

I appreciate this model, that takes us from being interested to being.  As it will go with Circle keeping – eventually you will just BE, a keeper!

To argue is to be heard. Find the arguement and facilitate Restorative Justice.

One of my all time favorite bloggers is Penelope Trunk.  I like her because I emailed her a career question and she answered me.  In addition, she’s a great blogger role model.  In reading her post today, I followed a link about “social skydiving” .  I checked that out, Trunk consistently provides interesting links.  I found myself in “blog-trance”, reading post after post, clicking on the “most popular” or “others you might like”.  Blog-trance is like story-trance, you are glued to the topic, interested, time doesn’t matter.  Some may call it “flow“.  Then I found this gem, on the new blog: 

People argue to make themselves heard.

That’s a good quote.  In the middle of a discussion about energy vampires, the truth of an argument is that seldom do people go “oh, ya, your right”.  Of course the backdrop of my mind is Restorative Justice.  I thought about the teacher that shared student behavior has improved because the kids are “heard” in Circle.  They don’t need to act out for attention.

This You Tube is a TERRIBLE example of a Circle.  There is SOOOOOO much wrong with it.  However, if you watch it you will see that at the end, the “reason” for the bully behavior.  The student shares in the end, outside of Circle, why she behaves as she does.  PLEASE NOTE – what is portrayed in the video is NOT a Restorative Justice Circle!

The reason I link to this example is that – listening did not happen first.  When you do a Restorative Justice Circle – you start with setting the stage.  You bring in values, you establish some communication before the incident.  I believe doing this sets us up to be listened to.  By speaking about other items before the critical conversation – trust and safety emerge.

It is amazing what emotional hot topics can be placed into Circle.  When people listen to each other a transformation happens.  I’ve heard many victims, acknowledge that the Circle itself is “repair” enough.  By finding what the argument is, before going into the Circle – you can uncover what people need to be “listened” about.  Pre-conference meetings are important.  If you are doing this in schools, make SURE your students are familiar with the process BEFORE trying it on a conflict or argument.  Be very skilled yourself as a keeper – if you move in to help in these kinds of Circles.

I turned a controlled substance class around using this.  Those attending began to speak to justifications about their substance use, and the negative “misconceptions” about pot use.  So I picked up the talking piece and gave space for people to speak to the stereotypes of pot smokers.  I let the participants be “heard” and they stopped arguing.  They turned to listening, and when our speaker (during the addressing issue stage) shared his story, the relationship to pot was seen in a different light.  We went on to talk about the cycle from non-use, to use, abuse, addiction and back to non-use.  I asked the Circle about their experiences and sure enough, they all had examples that made the case that pot can destroy lives and have negative impact.  The participants themselves taught the topic to each other.  That’s the amazing thing about Restorative Justice, engage those most impacted and they can impact each other.  Just listen enough to stop the argument.

To teach Restorative Justice, have “treats” repair harm and remember best practices.

When I began teaching Restorative Justice, my motives were about being in Circle with the same set of people for 16 weeks.  A post somewhere on this blog explains learning about people teaching in Circle.  I was at the 1st National Conference on Restorative Justice and a meeting was added in with Howard Zehr.  I knew about his study guides on the Good Books Website.  Another new friend shared his syllabus and I was on my way.

I knew MUCH more about Circles and Restorative Justice than I knew about young adult development and teaching methods.  I love to train and had a few years of training experience by this point, so that part didn’t concern me.  My priority was merging Restorative Justice practices into the class experience.  I wanted to emphasize the Circle as my teaching “mode”.  The educational experience was to be at the Center of the Circle, and the educational topic was Restorative Justice.

I can still picture that very first Circle of students, I remember names and faces and stories.  It was a meaninful event in my career.

A few of the practices I use to enhance the “Restorative-ness” of teaching Restorative Justice:

4 stages of Circle.  Each class/CIRCLE includes an open and close, a getting acquainted question, a building relationship question and for our issue, we talked course content.  The taking action phase of the Circles was the “check-out”, “take away” or “reflection” on the class period.  One thing I remember, is that college students seemed to enjoy original thought.   We would have different aspects of the class time, or different perspectives presented when we did this ending.  It also allowed for students to relate to each other and have a different understanding on the topic taught that day.  The students taught each other what they learned.

Student/Teacher.  I intentionally focus that equality in Circle, means we are all students, we are all teachers.  Remembering this, practicing from this point means flowing in and out of my “authority” position in the class.  I kept the Circle and I also instructed the class.  I learned as much from my students as they did from me, it was just “different” types of learning.  When you empower each person to be “teacher” when they have the talking piece and “student” when they do not, you pave the way for them to listen with a specific intention.  You set up the Circle questions to work this magic into your teaching.

Engage the triad.  Referring here to Victim/Offender/Community.  I was fortunate to have a local business man taking the course, he was on “audit” status.  He brought an adult community perspective, the diversity added to our class experience.  I brought in volunteers from SCVRJP, both speakers to storytell and community volunteers to explain and experience Circle as a community member.  One requirement for the students is to attend an SCVRJP session and participate as a community member.  It was noted in many papers that the students themselves were also “offenders” who had not been caught (underage drinking or impaired driving), however they found transformation in attending and gratitude for experiencing the session without the additional consequences.  Our Circle questions also focused on sharing related to the triad.  For example, “tell a story about a time you caused harm, and how you repaired it”.  (Only to be used when the class was ready)

Treats.  I emphasis attendance, as all professors do.  I explain you cannot get the experience of the Circle if you miss class.  I also emphasis that we miss out on your perspective, when you miss.   After we have established class values I explain how WE the class, are harmed by the absence of any community member.  I let the students know bringing treats for the class is the way to “repair” that harm.  Even if I miss, I bring something!  We have had apples, mini-bags of chips, and cookies.  Eating and breaking bread together bonds a group.  Side note: many students share that my class has high attendance.

Just as a Restorative Justice process transforms the victim, the community and the offender – the restorative justice teaching experience transforms the learners and the teacher.  When you feel a deep meaningful connection to the work, you know you are in “best practice” flow of Restorative Justice.

Corporate world, workplace discrimination responses mirror Restorative Justice.

Today is the day.  I knew studying for my PhD would weave into the blog.  Here it is a post with a reference.  I held out for over 3 months, I didn’t want to change the “voice” of Circlespace.  However, I ran into something to good, to not share.

I was reading TARGET PRACTICE: AN ORGANIZATIONAL IMPRESSION MANAGEMENT APPROACH TO ATTRACTING MINORITY AND FEMALE JOB APPLICANTS.  The article was speaking about how companies/corporations can use 6 tactics to restore a damaged reputation.  The first of those 6, is “accounts”, there are then 4 ways to respond to accounts.  The options are 1) Denial, 2) Excuses, 3) Justification and 4) Apology.  The article said that the most common, is denial.  Acknowledging is more favorably received and apologies and explanations work to re-establish cooperation and promote (improve) positive reactions.

My restorative justice bells and whistles went off!

How often do people who have caused harm try “it wasn’t me”, or “I didn’t do it”.  Our legal system promotes a not-guilty plea as part of the process.  I believe the fear of getting in trouble, trumps telling the truth.  If you don’t feel safe enough, or your fear of the punishment is too great, you aren’t likely to even acknowledge a mistake, let alone a harm.  Not acknowledging, is the same as denial.  Intentional or unintentional, denial is denial in the eyes of others. 

The next two responses Excuses & Justification – are things a restorative practioner works on with the party that has caused harm.  You want to make sure that you hear, what, how and why the excuses and justification developed.  A good restorative justice practitioner can dig into the situation, explore the beginning the middle and the end.  You have to come from a mindset that all behavior has purpose, and what was the purpose of the behavior.  You carefully hold non-judgement on this information.  Once heard people can usually go to the next step, and the next step is the first step of restorative justice accountability: Acknowledging you caused the harm.

I believe people find justifications for behavior.  Once you get at the underlying “justification” you can help people change their lives.  Here is an example and how SCVRJP uses Circles to change behavior. 

Justification:  All college students drink hard, I’m no different than anyone else.

Reality:  Over consumption can have serious risks/harms to self, family, society. 

Demonstrated change:  95% said the session would reduce exposure to risk of alcohol (5% said probably not, 70% said definitely, 25% said maybe)

90% said they would change (60% definitely, 30% maybe) and those that reported the session would “probably not” change behavior: 10% .

Restorative Justice Circles create a safe place to acknowledge harm.  It does help that those attended , have been sent to us by the courts, it is kind of hard to deny something after that process.  The use of community members, storytelling and real life examples hits the heart and promotes change.  You can’t argue with an experience.

Perhaps more companies will step towards workplace restorative justice, so people can get to more productive and healthy environments.  Handling “accounts” with denial, excuses & justifications aren’t the only options.  (I left out apology on purpose, since it is not a primary focus of RJ).   If  Restorative Justice can promote change for underage drinkers, I think it can restore corporate world reputation issues.

 

Avery, D. R., & McKay, P. F. (2006). TARGET PRACTICE: AN ORGANIZATIONAL IMPRESSION MANAGEMENT APPROACH TO ATTRACTING MINORITY AND FEMALE JOB APPLICANTS. Personnel Psychology, 59(1), 157-187.

Restorative Justice in Schools, further reading resources!

The newest item published for school based restorative justice: http://www.acschoolhealth.org/Docs/Restorative-Justice-Paper.pdf

I would also recommend:

Taking Restorative Justice to Schools; A Doorway to Discipline by Jeanette Holthum

Restoring Safe School Communities a whole school approach to bullying, violence and alienation by Brenda
Morrison

Restorative Circles in Schools Building Community and Enhancing Learning by Bob Costello, Joshua Wachel
& Ted Wachtel

The Little Book of Restorative Discipline for Schools by Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz and Judy H. Mullet

JustSchools: A Whole School Approach to Restorative Justice by Belinda Hopkins

www.pbis.org – Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support

www.dpi.state.wi.us/sspw/safeschool.html – WI Department of Public Instruction Safe and Respectful Schools

I really enjoy training teachers and helping schools implement Restorative Justice.  Facilitating the process is a skill, it requires practice and time to develop the habits.  There is a shift that needs to take place within the restorative justice practitioner.  You have to recognize the limits of punishment and the value of inclusiveness.  Be willing to try it and evaluate it for yourself.  You will find, time spent will help you move from IQ, to EQ to SQ!

What are all these Q’s?  Check this out!

http://www.deepchange.com/video/homepage_video

I’m on a stay-cation, so I will be blogging briefly!  To avoid completely “failing” at not working!  Hope the resources help!

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.

-BR

 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.

-JS

 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.

-MS

 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.

-CJ

 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.

-DW

 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.

-JS

 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.

-WS

Restorative Justice brings the heart and soul to violations of the law.

Yesterday at the River Falls Rotary Club, we were treated to a presention about South Korea.  This included an explanation about the flag.  Our present explained the four elements: heaven, water, fire, earth.  It was so interesting to me, that where “air” usually is stated, “heaven” was used.  I immediately thought of blogging about this piece of the presenation that heaven is an element with water, fire and earth.  Air is breath, without breath we are dead.  When dead, the soul ceases in the physical world.  Is the non-physical world “heaven”?   

Wikipedia, gives different, but very interesting explanations.  Check out the wiki-link.  I love anything with 4, because of the Circle, and the equal division of a Circle is 4.

I believe breath is connected to soul.  As a Circle keeper, focusing on calm breath at the beginning of a Circle, enhances the sacredness or should I say deepens the emotional climate.  I rang my tingsha’s recently, after not using them for awhile.  (all posts where I mention tingsha’s).  The calming and centering effect was very obvious.  I can be nervous starting out a Circle, worried if people will engage, or wanting to make a good impression on a person involved (like a Judge).  I always know, when I become calm, the Circle is calmer.  That is a concept I also teach, when keeping, the influence that one person can have on a Circle.

I got to be a community member in a Circle, with a new Circlekeeper.  I saw and experienced her committment to the process, the committment of her person to the power of the Circle.  It is amazing thing to witness, young people court ordered to attend, transform.  The session was a CSI Circle, (CSI stands for Controlled Substance Intervention) very similiar to the Underage Consumption Panels I developed (combining Restorative Justice Circle process and evidence-based curriculm).  Youth who get in trouble from smoking weed or having paraphernalia have shown up to these classes, really looking the part.  I don’t like to judge people or label, however, they do come in looking like well, sorry “stoners”.  People are not always what they appear like on the outside.  I’m sorry I used the word “stoners” to describe the youth, because what I witnessed in that Circle was young people who made choices to use and were now being open in listening and sharing.

Group facilitation that comes from the heart and soul can really help people.  The Circle group of “stoners” did some really amazing things.  I observed two “hoods up” as we started.  The use of a hood, and slumping body posture only lasts so long in a Circle.  I noticed early on that one hood had already been removed.  It was much longer and I saw the other one was removed.  This group opened up to all of us.  We heard how hard it was to have your Mom arrive at 3 am, seeing you handcuffed and sitting on a curb.  Having to look her in the eye and see how hurt she was.  She/Mom only thought it was a curfew ticket and found out it was posession and paraphernalia.  Another young person explained how using effects his relationships, if using  his date is just a hook-up and that’s it.  A relationship can evolve if he doesn’t use when he has a first date.

We talked about mixing of drugs and witnessing an overdose.  The stories and experiences would alarm you.  They did me.  The truth is not always pretty.  It was obvious that using causes pain.  Using has social, emotional, physical and spiritual consequences.  It hurts your spirit to be labeled as a “pot-head”.  The Circle talked about that label, and how long it takes to be cleaned up before it leaves you.  They all expessed “take aways” from the Circle.  They all identified a change that they would make from experiencing the Circle.  Will they all stay 100% clean and sober from here on out?  Probably not.  However, compare what I described to you to the simple act of paying for their tickets.

Restorative Justice brings the heart and soul to violations of the law.

Silly builds self-confidence, leaders need to learn how to get others to be a little silly.

Acting a little goofy, comes naturally to me.  I like to make people laugh.  I’m not afraid to tell really bad jokes.  The kinds that get a sarcastic or half-hearted courtesy laugh.  When I train a group or start a circle I sometimes throw out a one-liner or bad joke and it really breaks the ice.  There is both risk and vulnerability in this.  Leadership takes being both risky and vulnerable.

In the getting acquainted stage of a restorative justice circle, I will sometimes point out we are going to talk about the silly before the serious.  Last night I asked the Circle what “superhero” would you be, or what “superpower” would you most want.  Some chuckles and valid points:  “Batman, cause he’s right up there with everyone else and doesn’t actually have a super-power”.   People decades apart in age both picked “Spiderman” for the ability to swing between buildings.  This really does serve as an ice-breaker and practice talking piece skill-set.

I always end Circles allowing a reflection on the experience itself and making sure people know that they needed to “say anything they need to leave in peace”.  One reflection was about that “silly” round and how much it really breaks the ice.  I was given positive feedback for how I lead the Circle and how it really works to build trust quickly.

It was a particularly open session, participants shared honestly and I know this, because some of the sharing revealed painful backgrounds and experiences.  We tend to exagerrate the positive when we lie, or avoid hurting others.  What was revealed were items that might be shaming in any other context.  The average person doesn’t lie about things like that.

Other reflections at the end of circle included that participants expected to pass and did not.  I immediately thought of the value of the first two stages of the Circle – getting acquainted and building relationships.  A reminder again the importance of balancing the process when facilitating a Circle.

Being a leader is about others.  Being a leader is being yourself and being mindful of being a role model.  Holding yourself gracefully, while being a little silly, shows you are real.  You can trust real and genuine, even if it is a little silly it is still trustworthy.

Why did Cinderella get kicked off the basketball team?

She kept running away from the ball.