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First Response

One of the five types of circles we teach educators to deploy in their classrooms is Response Circles. The others are Check-in, Check-Out, Preparation and Learning Circles.

I remember my very first Response Circle. I’d only just read a few initial pieces about practicing restoratively and was intrigued enough to try it.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t responding to something pleasant. I was teaching a Year 5/6 class the day after the September 11 attacks in the US. The students arrived that day in a strange limbic fog resembling something between fear and sheer bewilderment.

I’ll bet that many seasoned teachers like me are reading this today and can remember that day well.

Put simply, I just figured it wasn’t worth teaching maths until we cleared at least some of that fog.

So, we responded together in a circle of chairs. We followed the simple restorative pattern of past, present and future phases:

  • Phase 1 – “What just happened?” We discussed what was a fact and what was a rumour. Further, we chatted about how to tell the difference between the two and what a trusted source of knowledge looked like.
  • Phase 2 – “How are you feeling about it all?” Plenty of words like sad, confused and worried. One student said they were terrified that they’d see a plane in the sky that day and what that could mean.
  • Phase 3 – “What will we do about that?” We established an “Any Question You Like” box and agreed that a 5-10 minute daily Response Circle for a week should do the trick.

Some anxiety fog dissipated, replaced by certainty, predictability and calm. Enough even for me to teach maths.

I’ve run countless Response Circles for events within and outside our control. They’ve included other cataclysmic world events, poor performance in Art class, the news that a classmate was in the hospital, failed lessons, and family deaths.

My students have always taken genuine comfort from knowing we have a plan for responding to whatever happens to our class or lives. And I’ve found those students easier to teach as a result.

Give it a try?


Keep fighting that good fight,


PS.  I wrote a book loaded with thinking and strategy such as this not long ago called “Restoring Teaching”.  If you click here, you can get a free copy in your hand pronto (paying just the P&H), but if you want to order more for your staff then just drop us a line at thing is, we’re not a book publisher – we just want Australian educators to be more generously supported.


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