Working with your Circle members, engage the age and interests.

Keeping Circle requires an awareness of the emotional state of the members in the Circle.  When we are talking about what people have done in violation of the law, I carefully explain all stages of the Circle.  I let people know exactly what will happen, how to respond at all stages in the Circle. 

This structure helps, where people have little experience with the process or approach the Circle anxious about participating.

I was in a Circle and trying to move from the building relationship to addressing issues phase.  Getting acquainted questions are typically a few words about a preference.  The building relationship stage is about sharing a story, more of who you are as a person.

I went for the first building relationship question and I have a few people pass.  That tells me people aren’t feeling safe.  Without pointing that out, I simply shared I had another question I was pretty sure everyone could answer.

I asked about tattoos.  Reason, I could see 4 of them.  I asked what people would get and why.  I was amazed.  One person who had been passing, stood up, removed his jacket and shared the most recent addition to his arm.

Some shared a fear of needles, so they had no answer.  Our Circle still learned about each other.  One person shared wanting to get tattoo stitches over the open heart surgery scars.  He was 17. 

I knew we were ready to talk about what people had done in the addressing issues stage.

Another way to engage people is to let them define things for themselves.  For example if you are working with young people about playground behaviors, ask them what is something positive that happened on the playground, that involved someone else.  What is something they have done that they aren’t very proud of.

You may have to translate the stories the youth share into values.  You can use any school culture  themes, my nieces school has the Winona Way – identifying respect as a basis for all behavior.  Some schools are using Responsive Classroom techniques and that identifies student CARES.

Circlekeeping is a process, you learn skills and develop habits after each Circle you facilitate.  There is lots to be gained by the experience and it takes practice.  Paying careful attention to the collective emotional climate can focusing on your Circle members while holding to the process can produce transformative results.

The process of Circle  is helpful to all involved and taking the time to listen and tune in to others is a technique that keepers can role model and bring to the process.  Besides you never know when you might start thinking about that next tattoo!