Thought and care to questions when facilitating Restorative Justice Circles is important. As you get more used to doing Circles and more used to monitoring emotional climate, you start to see how certain questions can guide the process.
I was in a Circle of students and only one of them had been in Circle before. There was some cross talk happening and the teacher next to me was trying to “shhhssh” students. I don’t do this, I try to use the Circle as leverage. So that is what I did, the next round I got the piece, the question was: “how do you see the talking piece, interacting or supporting the values in the Center”. The round was good, rich with perspectives. People pointed out that honesty in saying what is real when you have the talking piece. Someone shared that you can trust that people won’t interupt. Respect, that we talk one at a time. Everyone shared something about it, and the cross talk pretty much disappeared. I don’t know how I got so relaxed about it, but it really really helps people when they realize for themselves that honoring Circle process, respecting the talking piece is where magic and depth occurs. I had also started the student circles by asking for “practice” in everyone listening together, using my tingsha’s.
Another example of using questions to guide and deepen.
We had a storytelling round, with middle school teachers. It was a deep connecting round as people related something that impacted them when they were in middle school. After the round ended I asked people to complete a sentance, and write the word down. The sentance completion was: After hearing these stories, I have a sense of __________. I think when we have a sense of something that is part of spiritual selves. My word was ‘belonging’, in another session I used ‘community’. I then did further explanation of School-based Restorative Justice. I came back to the word completion and I asked people to vote by show of hands. I asked them to consider how the word they selected would impact their classroom climate on a scale of 1-10. A rating of 1 would mean very little impact and a rating of 10 would mean a great deal of impact, 10 also being a more positive impact.
So for me, I wrote “belonging” and I rate that a sense of belonging would have a positive impact of about an 8. I explained this again and asked for a handraise of those that had a 1-3. No hands went up. From 4-6, two hands went up. From 7-10 and the majority of hands went up. It showed people, that the feeling created by the storytelling would have a positive impact on classroom climate. I didn’t have to do this by passing the piece to each person, I used questions to guide the Circle and deepen the impact.
Questions are really a tool when it comes to Circle keeping. Question your motives for using a question, there is both latent and manifest opportunity! : )