When social emotional needs are met, children work and play together with more compassion, caring ,kindness and attention span.

This autumn, 23 new classrooms in four PSD Elementary schools have dedicating time for classrooms to learn the Peacekeeper circle: community building, classroom management, and conflict resolution model.

Introducing children to this social/emotional tool, giving permission and language for expressing how they feel about their interactions with their peers is so rewarding especially when they learn how their behavior has affected another person. They also learn in the safety of the classroom Peacekeeper Circle how the hurt or misunderstanding can get resolved very quickly.

When there are differing: ideas, needs, opinions, and rules, playmates can easily experience conflict, which gets in the way of the fun that is intended and desired during recess. Elementary school teachers are always hearing how children have conflict at recess yet they truly want to get along especially on the playground.

Children often come tattling as they enter into the classroom from recess. Peacekeeper circle and use of the communication skills outside of the classroom circle, offers children tools of respectful heart felt expressions in order to discuss opposing points of view.

A spectacular reaction from a 4th grade boy:

He received a “hurt” which was confidently and respectfully spoken to him by a classmate. When it was his turn to speak he chose to thank the person for helping him learn how to treat his friends better. (I have heard several of these “Thank You’s” spoken recently). The children are learning to apologize also. However, they are reminded to “take what friends are sharing into their hearts” and see how the other might feel from their perspective.

This is a perfect demonstration about taking what is spoken, whether it is a hurt, appreciation or apology, “into one’s heart”. This boy seriously took what the friend suggested for repairing the harm, and thanked him for helping him learn how to behave appropriately.

Each Peacekeeper circle has what we call: “closure” (synthesis or reflection) where the students can share their experience of circle that day. Here is an amazing reflection spoken by a 5th grader: (The names are changed for confidentiality purposes)

During the circle, Suzie heard Jeff tell Lacie that: “she hurt his feelings when she said something very mean about him to another friend”. Jeff shared his hurt very respectfully and Lacie offered an apology, (using the Peacekeeper language, trusting it would be held in confidence and safety in their classroom community)

In reflection: Suzie bravely shared that she learned (even though the hurt wasn’t directed to her), she had also performed a similar behavior and now she knows how it hurts others and what she can do differently in the future to be a better friend.

In 7 years I had never heard a child admit this type of self disclosure.

Serendipitously, in the next classroom circle, a girl asked if she could share a concern privately with a friend. “OF COURSE” I responded, “Peacekeeper skills are for every day, ever where,” However I shared with her what happened for another person in the last circle and how it helped her to hear how people want to be treated (without disclosing who spoke it, of course) and how it affected her to hear it.

We all learn from one another about pain, kindness, frustration and consideration, especially if we are open to learning how our behaviors affect one another.

Peacekeeper Circles offer a safe and trusting environment for children and teachers to speak what is in their hearts with respect, fostering compassion and community building.

When social emotional needs are met, children can work and play together with less disruption, disrespect, or disharmony. Resolving misunderstandings helps promote calmer, more adjusted and eager learning environments where children use appropriate behavior and are ready to engage with learning.

Fort Collins, Colorado

KIRI SAFTLER

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