Circles for Peace

Tamara Irving
In my classroom, I have implemented community-building circles. This practice serves well for the beginning of the year, as well as throughout classroom activities and assignments to build a community. Community circles allow students to get to know each other, develop their voices, and build a strong growth mindset. It also may build empathy amongst the students and may help to reduce bullying and negative influences. Community circles can be used to introduce new content as well as provide a safe space for students to discuss current events.
While building a community is important in the classroom, there may come a time when conflict arises and restorative practices may be necessary to build your class back up. A peace circle is a restorative practice that can be used to address conflict holistically and solve problems. Peace circles emphasize healing while addressing the harmed relationships and focusing on moving forward. 

Peace circles give everyone a voice while resolving conflict in a non-punitive way. It inspires students to take responsibility for their actions, yet allows them to transform a relationship that may have developed into a negative relationship that may distract the class or school environment. A part of restorative practices is the natural development of problem-solving skills because students are charged with action. 
As the facilitator of the peace circle, you may have such responsibilities as monitoring student emotions and creating a respect agreement amongst all parties, while also setting up the rules of the process. There is no guarantee that restoration will occur but something good may indeed come out of the process and help to build meaningful relationships in your school environment. 

Here are four restorative practices to focus on when building meaningful relationships:

  1. The relationships that were harmed by the behavior

  2. How the harm affected others

  3. What needs to be done to move forward

  4. Giving voice to the victim or the harmed person/s

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