If you have ever cooked pancakes, whether they are wholemeal, made with buttermilk or ricotta cheese, there is one thing you cannot avoid, and that is the first one will always be a sacrifice. There are a range of reasons for this, the pan is too hot and the pancake burns, or you don’t cook it long enough and it becomes soggy. The best part is that the second pancake will be the best because you will adjust the pan or the batter mix to suit.
This is the same process when you try something new in teaching. Often when we demonstrate restorative circles teachers will get all nervous about giving it all a go. There is a fear of getting it wrong or not following the exact procedure to get it right. I also hear the other extreme where teachers want to try all the circles all at once and master them all in a week!
When we try something new, the first attempt may not always be the best. Think of the first try as the sacrificial pancake! The other way to approach it is to start with the simpler version of circles and that is the check in circles. Get that right and then expand your circle repertoire.
Check in Circles – This is one of the best places to start, usually the first time you see your students in the week. All students form a circle, the teacher demonstrates 2 feelings words by saying them out loud. They could be “hungry and excited.” The teacher instructs the class that they are going to share two feelings words with the group. It is important to share that they can use your words or words that a peer has used. It is essential to impress upon students that we can learn from each other, and it is not copying, in fact it just means we have something in common. Each student around the circle also provides two feelings words. Once you do this with your class/es you will find that there will be common affects and feelings. It is when a student changes that pattern, say from “happy and excited” to “sad and lonely” that you will need to check in with that student in a 1:1 interaction.
There are 5 key principles of circles.
1 – It must SERVE your learning Program. If you have a new topic to introduce, want to check for understanding or have a tricky topic to cover, the circles provide a pedagogical process to ensure, that your content is clear and understood.
2 – ENGAGEMENT is everything. Putting students into a circle means you increase student engagement. Visibility and connection to the group is enhanced.
3 – LESS is really MORE. Short sharp meaningful circles will keep engagement high. Each circle should fit within 3 – 5 minutes, over time students will get better at assembling their circles.
4 – POSITION, position, position. If the students are sitting cross legged on the floor, you are sitting cross legged on the floor, if the students are on chairs, you are on chairs and if your students are standing you are … standing! Having equal status and a sense of community is achieved by being in the same position.
5 – Scheduled and Flexible. Check in and check out circles are best scheduled; students love the predictability of this opportunity to share how they are feeling. Flexible circles are used when something pop’s up and needs to be addressed at the time, for example an accident at lunch time.
Give yourself permission to be less than perfect, to take a small risk and to not always get everything just perfect the first time. Taking the first jump will mean that the perfect pancakes (or circles) will be on their way, and over time they will get more refined as you practice them.
If you would like to learn more about Restorative circles have a look at this webinar. https://youtu.be/nRW5kyj_434
Check out other articles Sheila has written here.