Fort Collins, Colorado
Twenty two elementary school classes in Fort Collins, Colorado have just completed the 10 week Peacekeeper Circle training. They have joined the other 50 classrooms in the district who are using Peacekeeper circles. Teachers are “Listening to the children” and observing their growth, becoming amazing communities of honesty, safety and compassion. I send a heart felt “Thank you” to all the teachers who have opened their hearts and minds to offer this opportunity to your students
Sitting still for half an hour to participate in circle, (especially kindergarteners) can be challenging. Each class and person in the class exhibits different dynamics. Some mature and ready to speak, listen and handle the truth spoken by their peers and other’s yet a bit timid to express from or take into, their hearts. Yet when the circle flag is placed on the floor with 20 or more bodies surrounding it, magic happens. The teacher opens the circle by asking the students to remind one another what the agreements are for conducting circle. The children anxiously and accurately answer the teacher by speaking the five main agreements often with embellishments established in their class or remembering other phrases they heard mentioned during training that help build safety and comfort to speak their true expression.
In the beginning of the training some are shy to speak, yet at some point all voices miraculously chime in to have their viewpoint heard in the circle because it feels like a safe place of inclusion. When the children hear others expressing appreciation and they begin to feel they belong, they want to participate, having their voice heard too. One intention of Peacekeeper is to have all voices matter and be heard and taken seriously.
During closure of the weekly circle a reflective question is asked by the teacher to help expose (from the children’s perspective) how things are feeling to them. Often they say “it feels so good to just be able to say what is on their minds” whether it is an appreciation or concern/hurt or an apology. One of the most heart-warming experiences is to observe a spontaneous apology. In reflection they often say “it feels good to get it off my chest or remove the weight from my shoulders, so I don’t have to carry it anymore”. ,
In training I use several little easy to remember jingles which I have coined to encourage them to “forgive, forget and move on”. Which most often is the natural outcome anyway. Another repeated phrase they hear while I am in the classroom training is “making amends, make friends”. These simple jingles help remind them of the restorative approach they are using in the Peacekeeper circles and beyond.
Constant reminders to use their Peacekeeper skills are helping the children to do just that. Several teachers have shared their excitement witnessing the children asking for private “mini” peacekeeper circle opportunities to share with a friend who they need to talk with. Many teachers have shared how they are noticing the children using their language and skills resolving playground, PE, Computer Lab and lunchroom issues.
It is so rewarding and affirming to “listen to the children” and witness their growth becoming compassionate classmates, through learning restorative practices, taking the messages sincerely into their hearts.