Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Circles: What are they?

"There was a circle today".  You might have heard this from your student if they attend Leonard Middle School.  So what does this mean and how does it affect your child?  It is with great administrative support that we are in our fourth year of "circling up" as we call it. We are a restorative practice school and this means we use circles as a structured format for solving conflicts. We arrange ourselves in a circle formation and have a structured way of talking with one another. Circles include everyone in a conversation that happens for a variety or reason and can be a whole classroom or a small group.  Teachers use circles to build community, problem solve and repair harm.   All of our faculty have been trained in using circles in the classroom.  The type of circle you would most likely see in a classroom is a community building circle.  The higher level circles happen but with a different level of facilitator who might be Mrs. O'Connell, Mrs. Cyr or Mr. Keane.  We are dedicated to giving students a way to communicate with each other that builds community, solves the problem, repairs harm or gives a voice to ideas.  Students feel more included in decisions when their voice has been heard.  All students have a chance to "weigh in".
We use circles to have fun and build community and we use circles to respond to serious situations. Some very powerful circles happened last year as we responded as a school to the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School in CT.  We facilitated circles with all teachers and support staff and the students were amazing and on many levels responded to each other with their hopes, fears and questions.
The foundation of restorative circles begins with the process of how a circle is run. Circles have a set of rules. It is this set of rules that are the basis for building trust and expectations about what is said. 
Community Building Circle
Everyone will have a turn to speak and we agree to share the time equally.
It’s okay to pass and you will have another chance to speak at the end of the circle.
Stay on topic
Be as honest as possible
Listen and speak with respect
Please do not interrupt a speaker or have private conversations during a circle
Respect privacy by keeping our conversation confidential. 

There is also a talking piece that is selected by each leader.  The talking piece might have a special significance or the students might choose one to highlight their team theme.  Circles and Restorative Practice are what is great about our school.  We know that being able to solve problems and repair harm is vital to a happy climate.  We are also giving our students tools to take with them in the world.  
If you would like to know more please contact me at any time.  Here is a website that you can check out also if you like further reading. 
Try this one:         Restorative Justice of MidCoast Maine