The purpose of ‘kooky’ in Restorative Justice Circles.

People that participate in Circles with me, become really honest about what they thought at first.  This honest testimony about what people thought about a Circle at first, and what they think now is an endorsement for the process.

The most recent description like this used the term ” kooky“.  It’s been mentioned that they seemed wierd.  One advocate says that when I first described it he thought it was for little kids.  Now he tells people how effective the Circle is.  He participates strongly and completely in every Circle we have done together, from college classes, to residential treatment programs, half-way houses and underage consumption panels.

One teen really came around and at the end of the Circle, she opened up saying at first she thought we were going to have a seance!  She went on to explain how beneficial the process was for her.

Its not uncommon that people start out in Circle, giving me an odd look.  I don’t mind, I’ve seen those looks before.

Sometimes its the most resistent people who fall the hardest.  They are amazed.  The underage drinker who has a chip on his shoulder at the beginning.  He’s usually the last one in the room, writing out a detailed evaluation form, putting down comments thanking the volunteers and storyteller in circle.  Writing out about how much he got out of the Circle, and thanking our program.

Can you do Kooky, on purpose?  I think its a pre-requisite for well-done Circlekeeping!  Here’s why:

1.) Comfort Zone – you’ve got to get people just a little out of there zone.  Doing something a little different, gets your attention, gets you considering change.  If you are comfortable, you will listen like you always listen (not very focused).  You might speak like you always speak (about others, not your self).

People are more comfortable reacting and responding, not simply listening to each person.  More times than not I have seen people in Circle, change opinions by the time they got the talking piece.  When asked to “just listen” people open up to other ideas.

2.)Novelty.  Teens have a draw to things that are different.  The Circle process, the desks in Circles, that’s all a little different, and it fills that adolescent need, to be doing something outside of the typical.

3.) Brain development.  Emotional parts of our brains are the oldest, we story memory there.  Circles have the emotional tie to the subject matter.  This helps with memory.  People remember stories, because our brains fill in the blanks, so we can always keep the story.

4.) Using everyone as a resource – how do you engage everyone, create equality and move an Circle from intention to outcome.  The “kooky”-factor works for me.  You have to let each person be important.  As the Circle keeper, equal focus on the individual and the Circle itself is necessary.  Its a real ability to focus on the seen and unseen things happening in the Circle.

Where else does this happen?  So if kooky, wierd, silly or strange are descriptors about my Circles, I’m good with that!  It means I am doing them well!  Give a chance and let your Circle keeping look a little strange, so strange that others will want to be part of it!