Tomorrow I leave town and travel across the state. I am going to visit a school for the second time. I did a two day Circle/Restorative Justice training there about a year ago. Some of the staff attended other Circle trainings I did. I think one staff has been to three different trainings I facilitated.
The training date seemed suddenly here – for both the site coordinator and myself. We had a loose framework planned but no specific details. I was going to work with the school and students for day one. Maybe do some class circles, interview some youth. Then that evening a session on Restorative Parenting. I suggested the school implement monthly or biweekly, Circles of Support for parents. The second day there, I get a 1/2 day with staff only. Since this school uses Circles, I asked for staff feedback – regarding the three biggest challenges. This is going to help me prepare.
I am going to generate a variety of options to address ‘uncirclelike behavior’. That way teachers will have a variety of new ideas/tools to use in Circle keeping. At the top of that list would be to focus so much on the process.
The questions/challenges I got back also indicate the students aren’t ‘getting’ what restorative justice is. So that’s easy – I get 45 minutes with all 41 students to cover that. Hopefully almost all those students will have been in one of the 3 Circles I facilitated that day.
The presentation to the teachers will be easy on why students don’t get ‘it’, especially students in an alternative school setting. For one, students have been treated with reward/punish models since kindergarden. Gold stars for doing this, no recess for doing this. I just read: Rules without Relationships leads to Rebellion. The other aspect is going to be if the teachers have really flattened the hierachy in the school
Can teachers turn over the classroom climate and community to EVERYONE? Can learners be engaged, connected and involved? I plan to take the message – the Circle is the format, the CLIMATE is the key. Circle are a tool to improve classroom climate. They can be a thermostat, helping set the climate. But the culture needs to extend beyond the Circle time. I plan to have ideas for keeping ‘social curriculm’ and ‘academic curriculm’ balanced.
Lots of ideas for fun and the importance of ‘getting acquainted’ stage work. Restorative communities are about inclusion, belonging. Some students are apparently not participating. That’s interesting. I wonder how we can increase belonging. I typically attribute this to not feeling ‘safe’. I’ll keep you posted on what I learn. I always tell the Circle-rejectors, I ask them in it, so I can learn their story and perspective. I say “I don’t mind if you don’t like it, I might learn something new from someone who feels like that” I like to ask everyone what it’s like when someone chooses not to participate. Those responses are interesting.
Well with all this ‘to do’ . . . I better get to work. I’m going to love it, 5 or 6 Circles in two days! YEAH! and I always learn more about being a facilitator and helping schools!