Earlier this year, I wrote about the circle practice many of our classrooms are experiencing this year. I also talked about how the adults in our school use circle practice to build stronger adult relationships as well. In the last week, I have found myself sharing more about our restorative circle work with parents and others. I want to share again what this practice is about.

When you consider the idea of restoration, many times one might think of antiques receiving restoration to look new again. It is an idea of putting things together or rebuilding. I also think of the concept of doing something with care.

Circle practice at school begins with building relationships. Circle practice takes time and takes care. Our students and teachers sit together and learn about each other. Students share ideas and share about themselves. And students also listen. Through guiding questions, a teacher can begin to build a class community. Students begin to see their classmates as the individuals they are. And during this time, teachers can support conversations to problem solve issues or challenges that crop up in a classroom community.

As we prepared for our Student Led Conferences last week, I listened to students reflect on the circle time in their class. Students provided intuitive reflections on their ability to listen growing. Students enjoy hearing about each other. And students feel safe to also share. Students are learning to communicate with each other. The words and responses students have given can be powerful. Students feel a greater desire to be at school because of these stronger feelings of community.

When I navigate students who might be in conflict, I also have found myself working through the process of restorative practice. Our students learn to speak up for themselves and share their voice. We sit together to problem solve issues. I leave these conversations more hopeful that we have some strategies to put into place for everyone.

This work is not the only solution, but I see our culture of community that is so important to the fabric of Joyner continue to grow and deepen through the work of circle. The connections that students make with their peers and their teacher become even more valuable. When discussions arise at different points of the day of learning, the language they are learning in circle to listen and respond come out. When a student is in trouble, other students support with offering words to encourage or just breathe.

It is my hope that our students find an eagerness to come to school to learn because they are in a safe place where they can be heard and can be noticed. Using our skills in restorative practice, builds that sense for us all. It takes time and work and care. But I believe it is the direction that we need to take.