St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program – planned sessions for 2012

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program in River Falls, WI provides a range of Restorative Justice Services for our community.  Click here for look at 2012: SCVRJP 2012 color calendar.

Locally, SCVRJP addresses public health concerns like teen driving, underage consumption, controlled substance use – by offering Circle sessions.  SCVRJP also offers Victim Impact Panels, for those earning driving privlidges after a conviction for drinking and driving.  Trained volunteers offer stories during sessions, community volunteers offer Restorative Justice, by participating in non-judgemental, supportive services where the impact of choices is shared by experience.  The session descriptions: 2011 sessions.

SCVRJP also provides Restorative Response – which is a program that offers support to those impacted by suicide and sudden, traumatic loss.  SCVRJP, is the lead agency working to provide informal support services for survivors and distributes the Grieving Families Guide.

Trainings are available at our River Falls location or on a contracted basis.  Training can be provided on Restorative Justice, Restorative Justice Circles, School-based Restorative Justice, Classroom Circles or topics needed by your agency.  Contact Kris Miner at SCVRJP, email: or 715-425-1100.

SCVRJP relies on donations, service fees and grants.  Your support is appreciated.  There is one annual fundraiser, the WALK for AWARENESS, scheduled for July 28, 2012.

New volunteers are welcome!  Please contact us if you are interested in joining our team!

Restorative Justice Circles create connections, effortlessly.

The feeling at the end of the Circle was explained as having a sense of “did I meet you before”?  I loved that, and I got it right away.  When you meet someone and realize you have shared values, common perspectives and a sense of safety, you feel a bond, a kinship.

Someone I think a lot of, and we think alike, offered “maybe we were Sisters, in a past life”.  I like that explanation as well, it really sums up that maybe our connection is something bigger and beyond the reality we can see, hear and feel right now.

I have to carefully navigate confidentiality here.  Something is in the news lately, and a few years ago, someone in Circle talked about being impacted by that situation.  Everyt ime I hear the news, I think back to this person, because of the shared Circle experience.  I feel more connected to the situation because I heard it from someone directly.  When you see eye ball to eye ball, and you hear right from someone’s mouth, you connect to it, because you witness it.

I believe Circles impact us biologically.  Our brains fire off good chemicals, we relax, our breathing slows down because we feel safe.  Our compassion and caring DNA gets to activate, depending on how much nurturing we had as a child.  The activity of connection, sharing and growing together leaves us different from when we start the process.  The creation of connections are effortless with Circle.

As a keeper of the process, lay the foundation, set the table, be in tune to the overall philosophy and hold it closely.  I planned an agenda, prepared a powerpoint and had a day-long training session ready to go.  A comment about my Circle center “mat” which is a crocheted doily, just came of out.

Image from:

I shared how a neighborhood Circle used a similar item, and someone in the Circle shared that if just one yarn breaks the whole piece will come unraveled.  Our communities should be the same and if we lose just one child, our community is unraveling.  I explained that a placemat for the talking pieces also creates something that shows the reverence for them, demonstrating they are special items.  I went on to add how a Circle Center reminds us to stay centered.

It wasn’t part of the agenda, the only part I had really planned was to do a Circle with the group.  In setting up the Circle I told a story, and stories help us connect to each other.  It was a brief offered opportunity, I didn’t get long winded (well from my perspective anyway), I stuck to the relevant and important facts.  That’s the effortless part.

When you can learn to speak, as if you are in Circle – picking the wise-est words, speaking from the heart, with positive intentions for others, how can people not connect.  Practice Restorative Justice principles and the connections to each other will be effortless.  Effortlessly building connections means people can learn more from each other and open themselves up to the places that need healing.  Someone you never met, can suddenly feel like someone you know.

Circlekeep, Circlekeep, Circlekeep. The best path to a Circle-tator, or Circle facilitator.

The Circle keeper is the person who facilitates the Circle.  The word “facilitator” is not used because it implies a more formal role.  More formal meaning the power of hierarchy is used instead of the power of inclusion.  The power of inclusion means you are using interconnectedness, equality and respect.  Interesting enough, the power of the relationship is a dynamic in bully behavior.  Hmm, that would mean Circles are a nature counter-measure to bully behavior without even having to address bullying.  It just can’t happen in a well run Circle, because the well run Circle is based on the power of inclusion.  You can’t do inclusion without all being equal, including the facilitator/circle-keeper.

Circle-tator is my new word.  I don’t like it because is could be a reminder of the word dictator, which is the opposite of a Circle-tator.  I do like it, because I love tator tots.  So tator may be in, Circle-tator may be not.  My first ADD moment of the day!

The blog title is emphasizing the importance of practicing the skill of Circle-keeping.  Get yourself into situations where you get to PRACTICE, before addressing a deeper emotional topic.  My background is in therapy.  I have a Master’s Degree in Counseling, did an internship at a student counseling center, was an in-home and private agency therapist.  I worked with difficult families in the child protection and juvenile justice system.  My caseload was seriously emotionally disruptive and violent adolescents, when I was introduced to Restorative Justice.  There wasn’t much I hadn’t heard, from incest to jail rape, my clients had experienced lots of life’s harm.  I walked with my clients through a boyfriend stabbed and dead, a ER visit for a rape exam.  My education provided my a backdrop for counseling theories and professional boundaries.

I mention this, because when in Circle, people will share.  The will be open with information that has impacted their lives.  Not all impacts are warm and fuzzy.

So keep Circles as practice to develop your skills, then take on deeper issues.  To keep a Circle KNOW inside and out, the core elements that make a Restorative Justice Circle. (read this, this and this).  The Circle Core elements are from Kay Pranis – Peacemaking Circles, Little Book of Circle Process and Doing Democracy with Circles.  Pranis, in Doing Democracy, gives us that Circles should be based on 2 things: Values and Reflection on Indigenous Teachings.  Really take pause, and consider if you are connecting to Indigenous Teachings.

The six structural elements, (Pranis)


Talking Piece




Consensus Decision-Making

Use ceremony,  meaning an open and a close, and intention.  This is where you as the keeper need to explain the deeper value of a Circle for humanity, not just yourself.  This comes from experience and understanding the shape and power of a Circle.  By using a way to identify Values (paper plates exercise), and using consensus to agree to the guidelines of a Circle, you are on your way to being a Circle-tator.

With experience comes wisdom.  You need to get Circle-keeping experience.  I did it by creating Circles to keep.  I found a woman in my community and we hosted a woman’s Circle.  I set up a Circle for my teen daughter.  You have to have a deep reverence, for the process. 

To effectively and skillfully lead Circle, you have to be willing to take another journey.  That is the journey to the center of your soul.  You need to figure out who you are.  However, liking tator tots is completely optional for being an effective Circle-tator.

4 “inner” tools to do effective Restorative Justice Circle work.

We only know what we know and we can only do what we can do.  What we know and do translates to how we think and act (our behavior).

In a culture of safety, built by the values and structure of the talking piece, we can have new experiences of relating to one another.  A story told in this container, is transformative.  Psychology Today post, on how storytelling brings us together, our brains literally “sync up”.  To get people to a new way on “knowing” and “doing”.

How do you create these kinds of experiences?

I beleive it has a great deal to do with the work BEFORE the Circle, as much as the beginning of the Circle.

Tool 1 – Yourself.  Spend time thinking and learning about how you feel about power.  What do you need to leave behind to embrace, really, really embrace equality and sit in Circle with people.  A “hey we are all equal” mindset removes performance anxiety, equality with different roles, the keeper is guiding the process.  Guiding people to all be Keepers in the Circle, keeper means you care about the outcome for all above the outcome for one.

Self examine your actions in relation to power.  Sitting at the head of the table, is a power position.  Sitting in a chair that is higher up in elevation, standing outside the Circle or standing up when not necessary is a power position.  How do you hold your personal energy when Circle-keeping, it can influence the process.

Tool 2 – Preparation.  Take a moment to center yourself before you keep a Circle.  Kay Pranis and the book Peacemaking Circles, recommends this.  Even one deep sigh, to let go of you, clear the space in you, and remember it is the Circle.

The opening introduction you do is very important.  Find your paragraph, your elevator speech, the comfort of your words to explain restorative justice and Circles.  Consider your audience.  Ask a friend or partner to listen, practice it alone in the car.  Gedi master this part!

The way you set it up is a big responsibility, it sets the tone.  Think of setting a table, you put out the tablecloth, the lines, the silverware, the center piece.  Lay the foundation for the philosophy, explain the ideas and concepts.  Explain the structure and tools.

Tool 3 – Values.  We don’t talk a great deal about values, introducing the concept can be tricky.  I teach a back door method of thinking about a person you are close with, then identifying the value.  (I know I have more detailed blog posts on this).  Going straight at it, I think we get “social mask” answers.  By going at it by a relationship, you get real life examples.  It can be hard to explain this, practice is needed here.

Tool 4 – Growth.  Ask for feedback and input.  Circle keeping, done well, leaves everyone in the Circle, including you different.  Practice this by bringing your whole heart to the Circles you sit in on.  Get in Circle by creating them, or attending them.  Find space to practice your habits and the gifts of the Circle will be in your hands and heart.

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?

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.

Restorative Justice Circles, congruent with evidence-based trauma support treatments.

The training title:

Understanding and Treating Traumatized Youth: An Integrated, Evidence-Based Approach

 The training was provided by Cross Country Education (

We learned that trauma treatment has 3 phases (originated by Judith Herman).  The first phase is Safety & Stabilization.  One technique was to use the senses to calm and ground, touch, for example was giving the young person something to hold, squishy, cold, prickly.

I immediately thought of the safety established in Circle, and how some students gravitate to the squishy, playful talking pieces.  Safety is when the enviroment is free from threats.  Circles ground us with an opening, and predictability.  We know how this works, it is structured with a talking piece, and the guidelines/values for how we will relate.  Everyone makes a committment to those values.  We know people will be trying to do their best.

I realized that the squishy ball, the playful talking pieces work as well as any.  Sometimes we have fun, stretching and shaking the green fringe ball other times, you forget the person is even holding a toy.  You forget because you are so drawn into the sharing.  Youth consistently out share, what adults would have expected.  If that adult is unfamiliar with Circle.  Even in all the Circles I have been part of, sometimes I am amazed at the disclosure.

This ties into the 2nd evidence based strategy congruent with Restorative Justice, storytelling.  We learned how storytelling helps move the trauma in your brain.  From non-language reptilian center, to the cortex area that includes language. 

I have an ego and I was enjoying the training because it was reinforcing.  The day before I was telling a speaker about his amygdala, being the shape of almonds!  He said mine might be almonds, but his are peas!  We shared a laugh, but he understood my explanation of sharing his story. 

In 2009 trainer Frida Rundell, Ph.D. gave us almonds, and explained our amygdala and I STILL have those very almonds!  I was at the IIRP conference and the session was sharing how restorative justice changes the brain!  I thought about “change of behavior, by a change of brain“!  I’ve stuck with change of heart!

Did you know trauma can make our DNA express itself differently?  It is called epigenetic changes.  Scientists stressed a pregnant rat enough that her pups were born with gray fur (instead of white).  I think about the trauma of domestic violence.  I am motivated to try to bring the healing components of restorative justice to survivors.

I am also a bit skeptical about all this pressure and emphasis on “evidence-based”.  Common sense should prevail.  We don’t have “evidence” of a higher power – however we know that can have a huge impact on people.  Can we create studies that help us?  I think yes.  Can we generalize that what evidence worked in New York City will work in Africa, just because it is “evidence-based”?  It frustrates me.

We put all this stock in the evidence.  The DSM (diagnostic Statistical Manual) is THE book, that gives you the criteria for mental health.  The book has a V -code for Bereavement – apparently if it lasts more than 2 months, you have a problem.  Really?  I mean really?  It seems to me we all know, it takes more than 2 months.  I get that people develop symptoms that become issues.  My point is that we all KNOW it takes more than 2 months.  If we rely exclusively on evidence based, we dismiss our common sense, our hard-earned professional wisdom and we aren’t helping each other as humans.  I prefer the model blogged on here.

Restorative Justice Circles affirming worth and remove defenses.

In a discussion about civility, someone used the phase “pre-judge”.  Reflecting upon the shortcoming of making assumptions about other people.  I started thinking about the difference between judging and pre-judging.  I don’t think there is much of a difference, being judged is no fun.

On the flip side, we all have defenses built up to those judgements.  When people think that I can’t do something, I get frustrated.  I have a defense.  I want and need to be percieved as competent and capable.  Yes, I know, I should get to therapy for my perfectionism.

I also had a defense about being a single parent.  If I thought I was being judged, it tapped my defenses.  When we operate from a place of being defensive, we aren’t usually being very kind.

In the You Tube video below, Stephen Covey talks about the power of the talking stick.  Who am I to disagree with International guru Stephen Covey, but I am going to.  I got defensive about the talking piece and need to speak my peace on that.

In the video he mentions a pencil would do.  It could.  However, I believe that the talking piece should be an item of value.  You can place value on something by sharing it’s meaning.  You can pick up a rock and say, this is a talking piece, here are the rules.  Or you can relate a story about where you got the rock, why it has meaning to you.  Making meaning and giving items significance is a common human experience.  It generates connection to know you are holding someone elses touchstone.  Check out the category “talking pieces” on the blog.

Covey talks about how the talking piece provides work, potential and affirmation when we listen.  He explains how it breaks down defenses.  That is exactly what I have experienced.  The person who shared a shortcoming of “pre-judging” might have meant, until he listens he doesn’t really know the other person.  As I have blogged before you teach empathy, by teaching listening.

The covey video:


Sample Circle script, a guideline that does not replace training.

I have always been resistant to scripts.  When someone is in converstaion with you, do they read from a paper?  Reading is best for with children on our laps and from books.

However, in order to teach the process and have others do it, you need to give some examples.  So I am sharing a sample script.  Each Circle is unique, the questions used should be unique.  The shell or outer rim (values, 4 stages, talking piece, open/close) should be the same.  The contents swirl within.  The experience should be like a labyrinth going in deep to conversation and coming back out.

A quote on Twitter today – spiritual growth happens with a change of perspectives.  Every Restorative Justice Circle should change some ones perspective.

When you “keep” a Circle you are making a committment to guide the process.  Knowing and understanding the approach in a manner that you can be flexible to the needs of the Circle, requires a deep understanding of the philosophy.  Training is crucial, being a participant in Circle is necessary to achieve the deep understanding.

The sample script:


St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program – Circle of Understanding


q  Hi, I am ____________ and I’ll be co-keeping Circle today. With ____________.  I have been training in Restorative Justice and talking Circles, and will be guiding our process today. 

q  Thank you for choosing to participate, and I am going to explain a little about Restorative Justice and Circles.

q  Restorative Justice – is focused on values, and that if we all live in good relationship values, we will all be safer and happier.

q  One way to do restorative justice is with the Circle process – Circles work because we are all equal, we all have difference perspectives and we all contribute to the Circle.  The Circle is for all of us.

q  There are a few things that guide Circle. I want to start by introducing the object that I hold in my hand. It is called a “talking piece.” When you hold the talking piece, you have the floor to speak, or to pass. You can pass, when you get the talking piece, this is by invitation, if you feel your silence speaks more, feel free to hold the talking piece until you feel you are heard.

q  When others hold the talking piece, you listen. The talking piece moves around the circle rather than across the circle. Please wait to respond to questions until the next time the talking piece comes to you. This is a way to give each person a chance to speak while everyone else listens as it is passed around the circle.

q  We listen and speak differently in Circle, than everyday life.  We speak from our heart, use our wisest words, and speak to not offend anyone else.  We listen for understanding instead of listening for right/wrong/agree and disagree.

q  Because this is a different way of communicating, we will have a short open and close to begin and end our time of communicating this way.

q  Confidentiality is another important piece of Circle – you can speak about your experience after the Circle.  Please don’t speak about the story that someone else told in Circle.

q  Any questions before we begin?


Opening Reading

q  (in your packet)


Step 1. Getting Acquainted: The conference has four parts.  The first part is getting acquainted and we will do that by identifying our values.

q  I am going to pass out paper plates and ask you to think of someone who is really important to you.

q  After you think of the person, think of the one quality or characteristic that makes that relationship go so well, without this ONE thing, it just wouldn’t be the same.  Please write that ONE thing on the plate, using these markers.

q  (wait for everyone)

q  I am going to pick up the talking piece now, and ask that we take turns, when you have it you speak and when you don’t have it, you have the opportunity to listen and allow everyone else to listen without interruption. 

q  Please introduce yourself, share your name, who you were thinking, what is on your plate, and why you picked that.

q  Circles are based on values, and if these are good for our relationships outside of Circle, I’d like us to have these be our values in this relationship as well. 

q  I am going to pass the talking piece, and ask for your commitment to honor the values, for the time we are in Circle.  If you don’t feel like you can honor the talking piece and honor these values, let us know how much you are willing to commit to.  I can honor these values.

q  Now we can do some more getting acquainted and practice the talking piece.

q  What is your favorite kind of dessert?

q  What is an activity or past-time you enjoy?

(make sure your circle is ready for the next stage and people are sharing, if not add a question or two here)

Step 2. Building Relationships: The second part of the Circle is to spend some time learning more about each other.  I am going to ask that you relate a story from your life, so we can build our relationship to each other.

q  Can you share a time that someone was REALLY there for you?  What was happening in your life, what did you need and what did this person do for you?

Step 3. Addressing Issues: The next part is the topic or issue phase. 

q  Have you ever experienced someone being mean to you, or addressing you in an angry manner?  Tell the story and share how you felt in that experience.

q  What do you do to make sure you are not being rude to others?

Step 4. Taking Action:

q  The final stage of Circle is to look back on what we have done, to all provide feedback on what we experienced together.

q  What did you learn here today, is there something you will do different to improve the community and your relationship to others?

q  Is there anything else you need to say to leave the Circle in peace?



q  Final Announcements (if it feels right, handshake, high five or hug . . . or say thank you to someone you did not know before)

q  Two more Circles 3/10 & 3/24 4-5:30

q  Read Closing (in your packet)


Thank everyone . . .

and . . .Thank You for being a Circlekeeper!