Conflict starts with misunderstanding, difference of opinion, something we thought should happen, doesn’t. Some people put others down, mock or make fun of another. Done repeatedly it is bullying.
When youth see differences between groups, they are in cliques. Groups start to line up against each other. The have’s and the have not’s. The pecking order starts to get worked as groups challenge each other or try become the most of the clique they are in.
When you place students in Circle, they have the opportunity to learn more about each other. Learning about each other helps them know they are more than the clique they may represent of be involved in. Students will find out about each other in ways they are not given opportunity otherwise. By practicing social skills in Circle, students are able to learn the process, while developing the simple skills of speaking and listening.
The focus on values helps melt away the issues of bullying, cliques and pecking orders. You can’t laugh and cry at the same time. You can’t hold judgements and be open to learning at the same time. When listening to someone, you can place yourself in their story. Circles structure listening and speaking and students are generally curious about each other. Empathy grows in Circle.
Students can collectively relate how bullying and cliques impact them, without having to point out a particular student or resolve a conflict.
When I teach RJ, I really advocate that you HAVE to teach students the process, before you introduce conflict resolution into the process.
Circles that follow a structure of getting acquainted, building relationships, addressing issues and taking action provide support, stucture and a container to strong enough to hold the difficult topics.
Students behave differently in Circle, they really honor the values, and make space to speak and listen to each other. When you can get students to relate to each other differently, it can change the relationship they have with each other.
My experiences have been consistent, youth take to circle like fish to water, or kites to air. You can gain valuable practice as a keeper by beginning with basic skills in circle. Habits need to be practiced and developed, Circle keeping has basic habits. Be yourself, be genuine, guide the questions, monitor the emotional climate, role model the process.