Restorative Practices focus on repairing harm and creating a space for open communication, relation building, healing, and understanding. It is an approach to conflict that requires deliberate actions to build respectful relationships and results in the creation of a compassionate, caring, and cohesive community. The circle has the potential to address complex and sophisticated social dynamics and issues even at the elementary school level. This circle process empowers students, and over time allows them to develop their own set of norms for positive behavior. Circles are increasingly being used as a way of creating spaces for problem solving. In circles, involved parties come together in a non-confrontational peacemaking process to talk through the problem and develop a solution.
Restorative practices can help student develop the skills needed to manage their emotions/behaviors, treat others respectively, and solve problems independently. Peacemaking and Circles are adaptations of indigenous practices from around the world that emphasize healing and learning through a collective group process (as opposed to punishment). They are an organic response to Native understandings of interrelatedness, and stress that individuals must live in “right relationship” with the larger community.
WHAT is being practiced in Circles?
RESPECT – every perspective is valued as meaningful to that individual
EQUALITY – expectations are the same for adults as they are for students
EMPATHY & EMOTIONAL LITERACY – greater opportunity to reflect on what you are feeling and to talk about your feelings than in normal conversations. We are nurturing and developing our capacity for empathy.
PROBLEM SOLVING – operating from a place of confidence in the innate capacity of humans as a collective to work our way through difficult places
RESPONSIBILITY – practicing with both words and actions. The physical structure of a Circle encompasses a non-verbal kind of accountability.
SELF REGULATION AND SELF AWARENESS – each participant is exercising self-control and self-discipline to make the circle possible. All must wait to speak, listen without responding immedicately, and delay their own need to speak.
SHARED LEADERSHIP – practice of fundamental democracy in which all voices are heard and all interests must be treated with dignity