What are Restorative Circles?
Circles are being used all over the world in schools, the workplace, the criminal justice system, families and neighborhoods for decision making, community building, problem solving and conflict resolution. Derived from aboriginal and native traditions, Circles bring people together in a way that is inclusive and creates trust and respect. The Circle process provides a way for people to get the most complete picture they can of themselves, each other and the issue at hand, enabling them to work together in a positive way to achieve the goals for which they’ve come together. Circles are based on an assumption of positive potential; that something good can always come out of whatever situation we are in.
What Happens in a Circle?
First of all, participants sit in a Circle, inviting increased human connection, inclusivity and equality. Often a Talking Piece is passed and discussion moves in order around the Circle. Time is spent to get better acquainted thereby building relationships and trust. This is done through various exercises, identifying shared values, discussion about the held beliefs associated with the identified values and the creation of behavior Guidelines for the work the Circle has come together to do. At the appropriate time, the Facilitator leads the discussion into the primary issues for which the Circle has been called. Each person is given opportunities to speak openly and candidly. Participants share their perceptions, opinions and feelings. The group specifically discusses those issues that will aid them in achieving their goal in calling the Circle, whether this is to repair harm, resolve conflict, work on ideas and plans for the goals of the group, work through important decisions that need to be made, provide support and healing to particular members of the Circle, or simply build community.. Where there is need for decision making, the Circle works together until consensus is reached.
Deepen Your Practice
Regular, consistent circle practice provides a way to build relationships and practice social emotional learning skills. It also provides a practice to reach for when the learning environment is disrupted. Such disruptions can come from within the school or classroom like when frustration spills over into harm. Or it can come from outside the school, when harm in the community affects feelings of emotional or physical safety. Disruption can come from grief—over the loss of a classmate, a teacher or staff member, or someone’s relative. Unexpected loss can be particularly hard to comprehend, for both students and staff.
Circle can provide a way to help students and staff express their feelings, hear other people’s feelings, and take time to reflect on the supports in the community.