Coaching and conducting Circles outside of my schools and community.

The SCVRJP logo has 3 swirls.  The swirls represent the triad’s of restorative justice.  Most important is to remember that Victim, Offender and Community – are 3 entities that compose restorative justice process.

It is so easy to only serve one group.

On a coaching and demonstrating visit to a school, I recommended they get community members in Circles.  By taking the “at-risk” kids and making a Circle for them, (very well intended).  They are creating more “us” & “them” than intended.  By they way, these kids were beyond “at-risk” they were some tough young people.   They needed peer role models in the Circle, they needed an increased sense of community rather than to be isolated with other “trouble-makers”.

When it came down to leading, demonstrating the Circles I got the job done.  I got the group to do pretty well with Circle (for me first engagement with them).  I had students with me, so that helped.  I had to use all I could to get them to even be silent one at a time.  It was a challenge and opportunity for my skills, and what I teach teachers to do in Circle.

We used silence activities.  For example, passing the talking piece until you feel your silence is heard.  Most the young people couldn’t be quiet up until that time, for fear of not getting noticed.  I used lots and lots of non-judgemental language and guidelines for making the Circle work. 

When the talking piece was not in play, I saw some signs (hand gestures) going back and forth.  I dove in with a piece!  “Tell us what you think listening looks like!” and encouragement  “Let’s all look at the person talking so we are sure to understand each and every person.”  I had to role model listening and so did the staff. 

At the end of that Circle, I asked for something they did well in the Circle.  Not only did they offer that they listened, they offered that they appreciated being heard.  Well in terms relevant for the group.  Self-disclosure about not being heard in my family, and  “it was good to be heard in the Circle, even if it was only my silence” left me knowing I introduced the process.

If we want to shift cultures in our schools, we HAVE GOT to use community members.  We have to use Circles for the entire community, those at risk situations and those situations in which harm has occured.  Using the model in one classroom will not change the school.  Implementing a change in climate means getting as many people involved in the process as possible.

I was hired to train at a school and the staff had evaluated restorative justice at another district.  A story shared during training made me 1.)glad everyone heard this and 2) validated the use of Circle as a training technique.  The story, and I don’t ever forget this one . . . visiting staff, asked students how they deal with teasing and bullying, the answer was: “that doesn’t happen at our school”.

If you hire me to come train your school, build in the days for me to come and visit, to coach and help implement.  It will help.