I attended the first National Restorative Justice Conference in 2007. A small gathering happened at breakfast for those teaching Restorative Justice. I “crashed” and met Don Haldeman, who shared his course syllabus. I went back to Wisconsin, and 7 months later I was teaching at the local campus. The 3 credit course is a special topics 300 level course. Many students are sociology majors and criminal justice minors. I took some lines from their final papers, a class reflection.
This is the only class that I can say I honestly changed from what I learned.
More than anything I learned things about myself that I did not know before. This class has taught me a great deal about myself. After sharing things about my life to the class I had a change to open up and think about my life in the past, present and future. I got to think of such things as all of the decisions I have made, who has been affected by them, and how I can make better decisions in the future. I learned that I am an equally good speaker as I am listener. I also learned that once I get to know others, after a while I tend to start opening up and say things that I normally would not about myself
The number one thing I learned about others is not to judge someone before you get to know who they are.
I think restorative justice has shown me that there is good in everyone and a majority of the time once people see how many individuals are affected by their decisions they feel remorse for what they have done.
At first when I walked into class and saw that we were sitting in a circle I felt a bit strange and it felt like I was in some sort of rehabilitation center. But now . . . I would recommend it when I am with a group of people . . . now it feels natural and it is interesting just how sitting in a circle can change how you speak and see people. I will miss sitting in circle because it seems like the natural way of solving issues and treating people equally.
It is safe to say that this class has made me into a better, speaker, listener, and thinker and I now feel more prepared to go out into the world directly because of this class.
I had absolutely no idea what this class was about, but I enrolled in it. What I have gotten out of CJ 389 was something that will be in my heart and soul forever. When Kris explained that the class was not a traditional criminal justice course, but a different topic called Restorative Justice . . . I honestly felt like I had lost all interest in taking the course. I was looking forward to learning about laws and court, not about how we can “fix” our wrongdoings.
It was a great experience, being about to share moments and feelings about myself with my fellow classmates using the circle process. The circle was something I’ve never even heard of before, but it grew on me very quickly . . . it allows people to openly express their life stories and helps them to become better listeners as well.
One thing this style of learning has really strengthened for me is understanding the pasts of certain people that help to shape who they are right now. Before, it was very easy for me to be judgmental about people, but now, with what I’ve learned here, I can better see who they really are.
Overall, what I got out of the Restorative Justice experience is something that will stay with me until the day I die. It has helped to bring out and shape who I really am and has also aided me in finding the right career.
I would recommend this course to anybody . . . going in to criminal justice, along with anyone else who needs help with finding who they are or finding peace with themselves. This course was an absolute life changing experience for me, and I would would enroll in it again in a heartbeat if I had the change. Our world is far from perfect, but Restorative Justice is definitely one massive step closer in the right direction.
This class was not just teaching an alternative style, it was an alternative. This involvement helps see things through other people’s eyes and how the world around us in viewed. This is created by the circle process. This is the only classroom on campus that uses the circle as an everyday standard to each clas period. By having a circle as the classroom setting . . . we were able to talk to everyone . . . with everyone an equal. This is a great bridign between the classroom and the circle process. By having a circle every day we were exposed daily to the foundation of restorative justice, which is respect. By letting me speak in class, restorative justice has made this a class, in which I made mine by letting me share my ideas and thoughts.
I feel that the whole class became closer as a result of the circle process. We were able to learn many things about each other that we otherwise would not have known in a regular class setting. I have become more attached to my classmates here than in any other class. It is very intimate so you can talk about touchy subjects without the worry of backlash or ridicule. I felt completely comfortable saying what was on my mind or how I thought about certain things. I knew that no one in the class would laugh at me or go tell their friends after class about what I had said.
I believe that bringing in values in the circle is the critical piece to making everybody safe and open up. I have never experienced a space where people come together and share personal stories like they do in restorative circles. I always leave a circle feeling really good. I think schools need to implement more circles in classrooms starting in elementary. If children can experience this and talk about finding in a safe, open environment that the circle process offers while teaching them about values I can only help to develop healthy growth.
Having class in circles was very different at first. At first I was uncomfortable with having to face everyone and having everyone see my every move. That to me was a little bit invasive, but I got over it soon because everyone had to do it, so I guess we all shared the awkwardness. Having class in a circle was a lot of fun once I got used to it. I started to warm up quickly. The part that I liked best about the circles was the plates and talking peace. Having class in a circle gave me a new way to listen in class.