Getting Started with Circles

As discussed in previous sections of this series, to begin using circles a few conditions must be in place.

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The teacher must value Relationships and work to be creating a positive, safe and supportive community within their classroom.

Affective Statements:

It is essential that the teacher be modeling through their behaviour and interactions what they are expecting to see from their students. This can start by introducing Affective Statements into your classroom. “These statements provide opportunities for students and adults to express their feelings, both positive and negative. By expressing feelings toward a student about their behavior, teachers are humanized and become relatable. Students are able to cultivate empathy and learn social and emotional skills.”[1] Affective statements will open the door to restorative practices, showing your students you care and are fallible. They help to provide feedback on the impact and scope of intended or unintended harm resulting from negative behaviors, give information that can be used to restore a good feeling between people when harm has been done to their relationship and as previously mentioned help humanize the person making them, immediately changing the dynamic between the people involved. These statements share emotion which helps to connect individuals, which then can have massive effects on community within a classroom and school.

Examples of Affective Statements:

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Resources Relating to Affective Statements:

Characteristics of High Quality Affective Statements 

The Continuum of Restorative Practices  

Restoring Community, Restorative Questions 

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PDF on Restorative Practices 

Affective Statements are the first step on the road to restorative practices. The statements will help alter the student culture in your classroom. People will begin to see the human side to interactions and in what ways they affect others. This thinking process will move from thinking inward and only about self to thinking outward and about others.

Getting started with circles in your classroom:

As a community you need to cover some ground rules for participating in circles and give a general overview of what to expect during circle time. The ground rules can be provided by the teacher or can be co-created with the students. You want to come up with something that clearly shows everyone involved in the circles will be provided the following:

Participants will be respected

Participants will be heard

Participants have the right to pass

Nothing from the circle will be shared outside of the circle without permission

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list but rather a starting place for you and your students. Take time to add points which will work for your classroom.

Examples of Expectations for circles:

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  • Consider it a sacred space.
    • One person speaks at a time.
    • Speak and listen from the heart.
    • Encourage and welcome diverse points of view.
    • Listen with discernment instead of judgment.
    • Share leadership and resources.
    • Decide together how decisions will be made.
    • Work toward consensus when possible.
    • Offer experience instead of advice.
    • When in doubt or need, pause and silently ask for guidance.
    • Decide together what is to be held in confidence.
    • Speak from your own experience and beliefs rather than speaking for others.
    • Open and close the circle by hearing each voice. (Check-ins and check-outs.)[2]

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Circle Guidelines 

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[1] https://www.ocde.us/HealthyMinds/Documents/RP_Continuum_Packet_FINAL.pdf  pg 1

[2] http://www.millionthcircle.org/Resources/guidelines.html

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