Sometimes it seems as though the Wildest One (you might call her God, or the Universe, or Love) is actively meddling in the affairs of mortals, like I am given a thing to learn, and then immediately after am handed the situations necessary for practice and integration.
Last weekend, I took part in a training with the Center for Community Peacemaking on Restorative Circles with Kay Pranis, a thoughtful wise woman who gave us many tools for using the idea of a circle to bring restoration to broken relationships when harm has been done in a community.
In the two days since I have been back to school, I have encountered several situations in using a circle tool in the classroom helps to facilitate the discussion or to ensure that a student expressing a feeling or opinion feels safe. Yesterday at the beginning of class, one student began sharing her concerns about the political process. Other students began to jump in and talk over her, encouraging her and debating her points. She is very soft-spoken, and I was afraid that her moment of vulnerability would disappear into the fray, so I took a stone to her desk, said that while she had the stone, the rest of us were empowered to listen, and she continued. When she was finished, she just naturally handed the stone off to the next person, and a relatively respectful circle ensued.
In another class, the sharing of papers can get tedious, and some of the students tend to be anxious about sharing their writing. I handed a talking piece to one of the boys who seems to take a quiet leadership role in the class, and said that we’d send the talking piece around the circle a couple times. People could share parts of their papers or pass. In the first round, the girls (it’s a very small class) both passed, and I thought that maybe it was a bad choice to do it this way, but in the second round they both shared, and a boy who strongly dislikes English class also shared, making up an answer to one of the writing prompts on the spot–it allowed him to use his verbal strengths in community, so his sense of inadequacy about the writing was suddenly moot. Again, the students seemed to have a natural understanding of the process of the talking piece and turn-taking.
Along with those delightful examples is situation of harm that needs to be addressed. I need to work through with the student in my class who was at the receiving end of a very harmful comment whether a circle might be the place to address the harm that occurred.
So. Along with the learning comes the opportunity to practice. May I be open and ready to use the tools I have been offered.
1. The way the mists and fogs hang about the fields in the mornings
2. Practice. Opportunity to practice
3. The shining eyes of my students
4. Poetry. Yes, again. Yesterday after I had read the Dawna Markova poem I had chosen for my opening poem, a boy asked if I had ever heard of Langston Hughes. I told him that yes, I had even posted a Langston Hughes poem to my Facebook page the day before. I will have to bring a Hughes poem to class this week.
5. The hope of restoration
May we walk in Beauty!