Building Community Restorative Circles

Some students arrive at school with a variety of challenges on their minds and emotions. Teachers can assist students in processing their feelings and thoughts so that they may better handle their situations and be more present in class.

Restorative circles are a good way to accomplish this. Restorative circles are important in proactively building the relationships and skills students need to support one another and collectively address the challenges they face, even though they are frequently used to replace punitive forms of discipline. Restorative circles work best when they’re integrated into the school culture. After all, you can’t “repair” a community you didn’t create or maintain.

Let us know more about the community-building restorative circles in detail. 

What are community-building circles and circles in restorative practices?

Community circles foster a sense of belonging and mutual respect. Community circles have a lot of power because they allow kids to express themselves. As a result, children can relate to their classmates. Students’ common triumphs and problems are highlighted in community circles.

A circle is a versatile restorative activity that can be used both proactively and reactively to address wrongdoing, conflicts, and problems. Circles allow people to communicate and listen to one another in a safe, respectful, and egalitarian environment.

What should be the steps taken for encouraging meaningful circles? 

  • Co-construct a secure, supporting area: Teachers who devote time upfront to create relationships, skills, and practices to call on throughout the school year especially when things become tough have the best results with circles. 

Teachers and students work together early on to learn qualities such as empathy, patience, kindness, courage, and open-mindedness that must be honored for individuals to communicate openly and honestly in a circle. They also figure out the finest ways to collaborate. The talking piece, which goes around the circle as an invitation to share while everyone else listens (participants may pass if they don’t want to talk), is one of them.

It is recommended for people to talk and listen from their hearts. And what happens in a circle stays in a circle, though educators should inform students right away that we are required by law to report when a student threatens himself or others, or when students reveal abuse.

  • Be prepared: As the facilitator, make sure you’re well-rested, calm, and attentive. It’s critical to be fully present and able to sit with other people’s stories and feelings as well as your own to effectively maintain the circle space. Take a deep breath and relax. Consider alerting support personnel if you’re looking into sensitive situations that may require more investigation.
  • Plan ahead: Agree on a topic or theme that will keep kids’ attention. To open the circle space, find a suitable opening ceremony, such as a poem, a quote, or a piece of music. After a particularly stressful lesson or a very raucous hallway experience, a mindfulness activity can be used to bring students back into the space. Develop questions and prompts to attract student perspectives into the circle, and look for material to ground the conversation. Keep in mind that the larger the circle, the longer it will take for the talking piece to complete its circuit. 

Consider how events may unfold and be prepared to adjust as necessary. Allow time for a closing ceremony, which will allow students to transfer into environments that are less conducive to vulnerability. A closing ceremony can be a pledge to keep the tales shared in a circle secure, or a breathing exercise in which students are given suggestions and time to reassemble themselves.

  • Incorporate student experiences into the space: Encourage students to relate to the circle subject by sharing personal tales. Ask kids to talk about “a person in your life who…” or “a period when…” during storytelling rounds. Genuinely share yourself. This allows others to do the same thing. As others speak, be present. Remind everyone that in circles, listening is essential. True listening can create a friendly environment in which even the quietest voices are encouraged to speak.
  • Recognize, paraphrase, summarize, and exhibit empathy: Pay attention to what pupils say so you can build on what they’ve said. When the talking piece is returned to you, express how you felt, saw, or heard. Send the talking piece around a second or third time if you think there’s more than surfaced in the first round, and ask students for their connections, comments, or contributions. 

Model agreed-upon circle techniques for students to use if difficult or painful situations arise. Listening attentively and being there with others’ trials and tribulations can lead to supportive, healing experiences that deepen communal bonds and foster empathy. If necessary, inform kids that you will check in with them later in the day or week. If they’re having problems, you can suggest they talk to other sympathetic adults or students for help.

  • Find out what it takes to be an effective ally: In addition to providing a supportive listening atmosphere, find out what else students require from you and each other. In a circle, discuss how to be better allies so that students understand they don’t have to confront their problems alone. Invite them to discuss an excellent friend orally in their lives, or someone they’d like to be a better friend or ally to. Discuss the attributes (or lack thereof) that these people possess, as well as how they make us feel. Invite students to discuss a time they’ve been a good friend or ally themselves, and what gets in the way of being our best selves with one another.
  • Zoom out to gain a better understanding of the system: Investigate whether the issues raised by students are the result of wider systemic causes (such as racism, sexism, or lack of access to resources). Introduce data, stories, and voices that can help explain how these systems work. Look for those who have taken steps to disrupt these and other repressive regimes.

Encourage students to make connections with this knowledge by sharing their thoughts, feelings, and related experiences. Studying bigger, systemic influences in society can help students have a better understanding of their circumstances and serve as a springboard for them to become more involved. Hope, connection, and healing can all be sparked through action and activism.

Wrapping up the context 

In this article, you learn how to build community restorative circles. Restorative circles are a good way to accomplish this. Restorative circles are important in proactively building the relationships and skills students need to support one another and collectively address the challenges they face, even though they are frequently used to replace punitive forms of discipline. The provided information would be useful to you. 

Carter Martin

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