Restorative Justice Circles talking or transformation, using key elements for change.

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (www.scvrjp.org) has been doing 100’s of Circles a year, since 2006.  In that time we have successfully placed topics in the center of the Circle.  We have consistently used a structure, based on the work of Kay Pranis (more posts referencing Kay).  The key elements of a Restorative Justice Circles, have been featured in two books by Kay, the Little Book of Circle Process and Peacemaking Circles from Crime to Community.

These Circle experience spans school settings, severe crime and significant loss, to staff meetings structured with Circle and our many Circles held to address public health issues in our community.  Highlighted in this post, are the rationale and reasons for using the key elements.  Talking Circles provide connection and potential to repair harm.  To transform the way people see themselves and others in connection to community and to transform behavior instantly, try the Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Elements, as described here.

A few of the commonly skipped or overlooked Key Elements:  Consensus to Values, 4 Stages.  A Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle is more than just using a talking piece.

Consensus to Values This aspect of Circle is more than just having people write on a paper plate.  This aspect is also designed to pull people together in a community that has decided how they will relate to each other.  The first steps of “community” if not geography, would be common interests.  A specific pass of the talking piece asking people to reflect on the values in the center, as part of the way of being together, deepens the connection before exploring topics, facing challenges or repairing harm.

4 Stages  (I am assuming you know these, there are many posts here highlighting) When we take time to do some questions, before the deeper conversation, or intention of the Circle, we are reminding people that we can make important connections by caring and learning about each other.  The simple content provides a context for common likes, it builds connection.  Some of my favorites lately have been to ask people about the next big accomplishment.  Fun results when I asked another training group to share 3 things about their shoes.

The final part when using the 4 stages, is to give opportunity for people in the Circle to identify their “take aways” or reflections on the experience.  This serves for people to identify quickly and immediately the benefit of the experience.  Like speaking to the Center in Circle promotes self – agency, so does speaking to your experience at the end of the Circle.  The use of the last phase helps us know we did good work together, it is another opportunity to allow people to share from the wise-centered part of who they are.  When doing Circles around trauma or emotionally heavy topics, it allows people to  prepare for returning to the un-structured everyday communication styles.

When you do more in Circle, than just employe a talking piece, you are creating space for safety.  Safety promotes vulnerability, vulnerability becomes a responsibility (tweet me) and a responsible keeper uses that for the greater good of  all in Circle.  Using the stages show respect and places the power, in each person and the Center of the Circle.

Key Elements Restorative Justice Circle

Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle Advanced Training

Please join us in River Falls, Wisconsin in October.  On the 23rd and 24th, an advanced practice, School-Based Restorative Justice Circle Training will be held.  The two-day training will feature discussion, reflections and ideas for developing effective Keeping skills and for using Circles in a range of applications.  The 2nd will feature co-trainer Catherine Cranston, who have been using Circles since 2006.

Seats are limited, and the registration deadline is October 3.

Please see the flyer for more details and the registration form: Adv Circle Training Oct 2014

 

There is also a Circle Training at SCVRJP on October 9 & 10.  www.scvrjp.org.

If your school would like to host this training please contact me!

Peacemaking Circle Keeping 3 intentions, 3 activities, please.

I’ve been traveling and training and learning more and more what people are calling “Circle” and I am getting more and more concerned that we are missing some key elements.  Good work can be done in Circle.  Transformation, growth and self-discovery can be multiplied when we keep from a grounded center in the practice and elements of Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process.  The foundation from Kay Pranis and the Little Book of Circles.  I’ve got 3 key intentions to use in your Circle keeping and then 3 activities to help promote those intentions.  These crossover and support each other, they help support each other.

When Circle Keeping, your role is to guide the process, as a model.  That means modeling a “Circle Hierarchy”, which would be an oxymoron!  The structure of Circle is one of equal dignity and worth.  A concept I have worked hard at teaching teachers is a different skill-set than classroom teaching.  The intentions of your Circles work best when coming from this place of equality.

Circle Intentions

It is not easy, you let go of commenting, redirecting, controlling the Circle.  The use of equality means taking time to offer opportunities to learn how Circle works best (vs ‘teaching’ it).  This works, and I know this from 1,000’s of Circles and the stories from those that keep Circle using this intention.

Coming from a place of Values, is another Circle intention.  This means living them as keeper.  Modeling them for everyone in Circle.  In a casual conversation some keepers shared with me, how they ask the kid that won’t share to say more.  That is disrupting the equality, and not instilling the value of respect.

Those plates, or the co-created Center guidelines are the foundation and Center of Circle, the basis for reaching the center of each person in the Circle.  You can’t build trust in the Circle, if as keeper you are not doing the same.

Inclusion in Circle is an intention for allowing room for all perspectives.  Check your keeping, are you really doing this.  Physically, are you making sure everyone in the room is in the Circle.  Is your Circle as round as possible, so everyone is knee to knee, shoulder to shoulder?  Mentally, are you preparing your questions, have you put thought into your Circle.  Have you considered what everyone else will think about the questions, the topics.  Have you invited as many perspectives as possible to the Circle?  That is a form of inclusion – to have the community voice, the hurt, the harmed and the people impacted.

3 Circle Activities that promote values, equality, inclusion

1) Stand and have people take one step in when they share.  Have them do two snaps when they finish, and the Circle do 2 snaps.  This activity shows the turns, and cues the listeners in, while giving them a role (to snap).  They track the speaker (role modeling, practicing one at a time).  This also engages people to take courage to share, everyone is asked to step in, one at a time (equality).

2) Y Chart.  Draw a Y on a plate, then add a drawing of an eye, an ear and a heart.  Ask people to share what it might look like, sound like and feel like if the values in the Center were in the Circle.  Any round with the talking piece that includes a deeper discussion or reflection on the values is value added.

3)Consensus/Commitment “action”, when having people commit to do their best with the values in the Center, include a verbal cue, but then also an action.  A thumbs up, pass a pinky finger handshake, or putting your foot in the center for two taps.

Join me at the Advanced Keeper Training, encouraging use of Peacemaking Circles in Schools!  October 23 & 24, 2014.

Circle with diverse members, harmed, harmer and community role models.

What a fortunate place I have, having kept 1,000’s of Circles in a range of contexts.  I’ve also been fortunate to train a few hundred in the process, allowing me to hear stories back on what worked well, and what was a lesson.

It is soo important that Circles have a diverse mix of perspectives.  This takes time, in training youth or community volunteers about the dynamics of participating in Circle.  However, by training others, you yourself will be learning more about the fundamental belief systems that make Circles work.

I believe that Circles are more effective that a victim-offender conference.  For one they include others, this allows for additional perspectives to the harm, and for more perspectives on how to repair it.  Circles that include victim, offender and community are more aligned with core restorative philosophies.

The diversity in a Circle makes is rich in perspectives.  Once we hear other perspectives are minds stretched and a stretched mind never fully returns to the original.  I could also insert heart here.

I was observing a young person across from me.  It was a “disorderly conduct” referral.  She was listening to a story about a domestic violence.  The storyteller remembered a moment in a hospital bed, her brothers wanted to go beat the abuser, and she just wanted it all to stop.  A life changing moment was being shared.  The storyteller spoke of the dedication to not raising her daughters around violence.  I observed a very, very engaged listener across from me.  As she rubbed her very pregnant stomach, I had hope for the unborn child.

Circles without trained participants to hold the values, to role model the process, aren’t spaces for strong personal growth.  As a plant grows strong against a breeze, the community stories lean into the reality of the listener.  If your Circle only contains those that broke rules and an authority, you haven’t moved your paradigm quite far enough.  That model might be a start, however, it is repeating the framework that only addressing the wrongdoing will help.  It might, but if you really want to get to change beyond the incident, and get to change connected to values, use diversity in your Circles.

If you are local or near River Falls, Wisconsin, please come volunteer to learn more.  Monthly volunteer orientation sessions are held and Circle Keeper Training is free to volunteers.

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.

UW Extension and Restorative Justice have SO much in common!

I recently attended a summit on the social-emotional well-being of children and families in Pierce & St. Croix Counties.  These are the same counties that SCVRJP has been serving since 2001.

I certainly appreciated hearing the term, the focus and intention of the summit.  I updated my Facebook that day:

Spent the day “social-emotional  well-being” of children.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times:  restorative justice addresses the social & emotional aspects of crime & conflict.  We use values!

The summit shared the definition of Social-Emotional Well-Being (from Zero to Three, National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families) refers to the developing capacity of a child to:

  • form close and secure adult and peer relationships
  • experience, regulate, and express emotions in social and culturally appropriate ways
  • explore their environment and learn

From the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families:

“To focus on social and emotional well-being is to attend th children’s behavioral, emotional and social functioning – those skills, capacities, and characteristics that enable young people to understand and navigate their world in healthy, positive ways.”

In Restorative Justice Circles, the process beings with gentle, intention explanation and invitation to the Circle.  The physical ways the Circle will work are explained.  This provided the structure and safety within the process.  It makes is so important for keepers to model Circle elements.  The values of relationship are used to set up the social and emotional safety and structure of the Circle.  Some students ‘test’ and I see that as their exploration of the environment (3rd bullet above), and you can offer a teaching them the power of how it works when we listen and take turns speaking.

Circles obviously provide for the first bullet, close and secure.  I believe a Restorative Justice Talking Circle (facilitated will all elements) is the safest group process available to mankind.  Safety and listening allow deep connection.  I’ve seen teens shed the boundaries from social groups and connect in Circle.

For bullet 2 above, Circle allows a free flow of expression when you have the talking piece.  The non-judgemental environment allows students to speak through the experience.  This helps them navigate, regulate and express themselves appropriately.  I am reminded of a student expressing her fears for her Father, he was to go to jail, and she was worried about his health and medication needs.  How more appropriate to express it to the Circle, by talking about it, than by stuffing it and acting out.

I remember another student explaining that when he shared in Circle he learned things about himself he didn’t even know.  Uncovering the layers of who we are finding connection to others is where we experience our humanity.

We owe it to our youth to give them modeling and group process of being socially and emotionally supported.  I agree with supporting the well-being of our children on these aspects.  I hope we do this by increasing the use of Restorative Justice Circles.

Trained teachers offer what Restorative Justice Circles “bridge”.

  I appreciate Sharon Bowman, she has a resource-filled website, great articles and books.  If you follow her on LinkedIn, great powerpoints shared.  Friend and mentor, pictured here, helped me learn how to work and train teachers.  In turn I teach all I can about Circles to her.  She recommended Sharon’s book, the 10 minute trainer.  The activity produced some great results, both in the flow of the training and the reinforcement of Restorative Justice Circles in schools.

I appreciated the side effects of using activities and exercises when training.  The audience is more engaged, the individual perspectives and understanding of the information is reflected by the activities.  The unpredictable-ness feeds my spontaneous style.  I can add a story, or go with explaining concept and it appears in response to the room conversation (vs my deviation from a planned agenda or powerpoint).

This post is a summary of what a group of teacher trainee’s developed in response to the exercise of completing the sentance: Circles are a bridge between ___(blank)___ & ___(blank)___.  Before this exercise, the training group had experienced a circle, heard an introduction on restorative justice and covered the basic facilitation skill-set.  Just a shameless plug – I am happy to provide a training for your district or agency, click here.

Circles are a bridge between . . .

Hurting & Healing

Having a Voice & Being Invisible

Hostility & Harmony

In Individual Heart & Community

A Problem & A Solution

Your Frown & Your Smile

Challenges & Solutions

Fears & Security

Chaos & Harmony

Conflict & Harmony

Conflict & Reconciliation

Whitewater Rapids & Reflection Pool

Peace & Chaos

School & Stewardship (& back, like a Circle)

I have to give this group an A+!

Consider this list an endorsement for the potential Restorative Services outcomes.  How would this list impact your school culture and climate?

Labels hurt. Restorativeness includes kindness to those that bully.

I stay away from the word “bully”.  I put in “bully behavior”.  Labels hurt people.  It’s hard to be called a name, its hard to be you, when a strong label has been applied.  My path to my views was influenced by a few things.

I would not recommend doing this.  I kept a Circle without knowing who the offender and victim were.  I was asked to help a teacher, new to Circlekeeping deal with some issues.  I was happy to show up, and demonstrate the process.  I would teach others to do more preparation, especially if the students had not been doing community building Circles.  Since the teacher was already doing Circles, and was wanting to grow his skills, I agreed to come in around the harm of upper level grade school boys and bully behavior.  This teacher had also taken the two-day training with me, so we had a great rapport and were able to have things set up prior to the Circle.

We met in the corner of the library.  The tall principal joined us on the floor, so did a guidance office staff.  I brought along my deer antler talking piece, the boys thought that one was pretty cool.  The Circle centered around “friendship” being a good friend, times someone wasn’t that good to you.  We used “friend” instead of “bully”, the classroom work was supporting being a good friend.  When a question was framed about being hurt, I was shocked and sad by the stories related.  Mom’s boyfriend throws beer cans at me, the high schoolers make fun of me from their cars.  The kids showed empathy for each other.  You could have heard a pin drop when that tall, authority figure shared a story about being excluded as a kid.  When we left that Circle, I had to check with the teacher.  The kids I thought were the victims, were in fact the ones doing the bully behavior.

That reinforced to me – responses to REAL or PERCEIVED harm include:  revenge, retaliation and restoration.   What is the harm the child is experiencing, that brings our harmful behavior.

Another Circle for 3rd grade boys, the last question asked by the victim to the offender “I just want to know why you did it”.  The answer “because in 1st grade, you got me in trouble on the bus”.  I extended our Circle a little longer to bring that in!

I don’t know anyone that raises kids with the goal “be the biggest, meanest, bully on the playground today!”  In my experience parents are extremely shamed when told their kid did the bullying.

Research shows the effects of bully behavior can be negative for the bully.  This story in Time, tells about a writer who went back to meet his bully.  It’s powerful, showing that the bully went on to continue to hurt people, to the point of murder.  It’s technically not Restorative Justice (not the specific process), it does include victim and offender, and a dialogue.  I want to connect with the author John Guenther, (email me at scvrjp@gmail.com).  He acknowledged at one point or another we have all engaged in bully behavior.  I think it’s key to not forget, we could all work at being better citizens, playground to retirement home.

Programs to address bully behavior must be comprehensive and focus on the culture and climate.  I appreciate all the work at bully-prevention and I continue to work on values-promotion.

Anything to reduce harm, must address the harm that caused it.  The only thing that mends harm is values.  If you’ve been in a training session with me, remember my slides that show the medicine wheel.  Hurt is to our physical selves, and harm is to our mental, emotional, spiritual selves.

Nancy Riestenberg shared this Safe Healthy Learners e-newsletter, some resources are Minnesota based, many are available.

Please note SCVRJP, takes contracts, I am available to train your school on Circles and Restorative Pracitices.  I also provide presentations and workshops on topics related to all things Circle and Restorative Justice.  If you would like to check a reference on my work, you can ask Nancy.

 

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!

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!