Really using consensus, especially with the talking piece

Consesnsus is so much different than “majority rules”, despite the fact dictionary.com gives it that definition.  Have you ever been in an enviornement or worked on a project or process, where EVERYONE agrees.

It’s very powerful, and Circles give that gift to manknind.  I can’t help but stop in awe of a ‘V’ of geese flyer overhead.  A restorative justice mentor Tim Hansen, spoke of geese working in a ‘V’ their shape for getting farther.  He reflected that the shape of a Circle might be the one for people, to get further.  I believe so.

I rely on consensus, when keeping a Circle.  I don’t always come right out and state the term.   I am SOOO aware of not being ‘top down’.  Circles I am part of typically have a committment to honor the values.  We simply pass the talking piece around and acknowledge a committment to honor them.  The values are generated by each individual in the Circle.

I use consensus regarding the Talking Piece.  It almost gets my hair on end, ok no it does get my hair on end.  As I typed that, my shoulders scrunched up to my ears.  I thought about deleting the “almost”.  Okay I will.  It gets my hair on end to hear this:  You can’t talk, unless you have the talking piece.

There is SOOO much  wrong with this.  1.) Your telling someone what they CAN’T do, or what the HAVE to do.  We ALL prefer what we do by self selection.  What we WANT to do is so much prefered to what we HAVE to do.  I think regardless of how young, students get this.  What I love about younger students, is teaching them, empowering them and giving them a choice you can praise!

I prefer “invitation” style to the Talking Piece.  As mentioned early, you provide the choice.  I KNOW teachers who haven’t done this are thinking “yeah right!”.  I’m telling you it works, I’ve seen it time and time again.  You INVITE, everyone to listen without interruption, and to provide everyone the opportunity to listen without interruption.  Then you show them what you want.  You PRACTICE the skill with students.  I do this by mentioning it before the opening reading.  Sometimes I ring my tingsha’s, and ask for a moment of listening without interuption.  If I am with a fidgety group, I mention inturpting with our voice, our hands, our feet or our expressions.  You can even start students out with a discussion of what ‘listening without interuption’ looks like or feels like.  Ask the Circle how they are doing with it.

When we use ‘invitation style’ for the talking piece, it’s clear we are equal.  The keeper isn’t making a “rule” for others to follow.

There is one thing that prevents teachers for engaging with or using Circles (in my opinion) – and it is the ‘perception’ of student behavior.  Its not the teachers fault, they haven’t seen it.  You can’t imagine something you’ve never seen.  I’ve seen it, felt it, been part of Circles like that many, many times.  So when I train teachers, I have to work on that gap.

One of my college students had an excellent reflection on Circle.  It was our final class Circle and I am going to paraphrase his statement:

Having this class in Circle, was really amazing.  At first I wasn’t sure about it.  The value of respect has been so apparent here, it’s really unbelievable.  I can’t believe that every person, every week was respectful.  I really thought at some point it would be wrecked, someone would laugh, snicker or make fun of something someone else said, that never happened and that made the ‘Circle’, and I really want to thank everyone for that.

Listening without interuption gives us this kind of experience.  I invite you to try it.  

-Kris