Restoring the Circle

The new education tool beginning to be used in FHC


Gracie Kruep

CIRCLE UP: The freshman circles took place in the small gym on Feb. 20 during seminar. The prompt for this meeting was passion, which the freshmen took turns answering.

Robyn Ziegemeier, Staff reporter

The seminar on Feb. 20 was just another day for the majority of students. Unlike the rest of the school, the entirety of the freshman class headed towards the small gym for their once a quarter gathering to participate in restorative circles. Once at the gym, they went into their smaller groups they had during freshman orientation. Upperclassmen directed their discussions once they began, everyone going one at a time to talk about the prompt, such as what everyone is passionate about and how it affects how they live. Guidance counselor Mrs. Shannon Harting oversees the groups’ discussions, making sure everything is going well.

According to Harting, restorative circles are when a group, such as the freshmen, sit in a circle to have an organized discussion about a prompt. Everyone in the circle gets a chance to answer the prompt and the discussion to create a bond with other students.

“Everybody sits in a circle, and the leaders pose a question for discussion. They go in order by passing a talking piece, so every person has an opportunity to say their response to the discussion prompt, and they can also pass if they wish to,” Mrs. Harting said. “Then when it gets back to the leader, they prompt another question and it goes around again. It’s just a structured method for dialogue, and the whole purpose of it is community building, [and] trying to get people to know each other.”

The district is beginning to introduce restorative circles into classes by sending groups of teachers to training sessions on how to use them in a classroom setting. They’ve also sent counselors such as Ms. Harting to these training sessions to better help students.

“The idea of restorative practices has many elements. It’s something that our school district is starting to train teachers in, and so this year I’ve been going to a training about it,” Mrs. Harting said. “The part we’re implementing here at FHC this year is discussion circles.”

The biggest way restorative circles are being implemented into our school is in the freshman circles. As the years before, the freshmen were put into groups on freshman transition day to do icebreaker activities using this format. Unlike the years before, the freshmen get into their groups to do these circles once a quarter. Upperclassmen, such as Gianna Webber and Erandi Barrera, volunteered to be the leaders of these circles. Webber likes helping the freshmen using the circles because it creates a sense of community with the people they will be graduating with.

“[The freshman circles] are basically a chance for them to get to know each other, because these are the people that they’re going to sit with during graduation, or their homerooms at the end of the year,” Webber said.

As well as helping the freshman build a sense of familiarity with each other, Barrera and Webber both enjoy leading the circles because it offers a different experience than what they are used to in normal classes. Although they are technically not teaching a class, they do lead a discussion process with their underclassmen so they can learn about each other.

“It’s definitely different because you are always the one being taught, instead of the ones teaching. We’re not really teaching but we’re helping them get to know each other better, so they’re not uncomfortable in a classroom setting,” Barrera said. “It’s better for them to grow up with different people around them. I think it’s cool too, because seniors usually don’t interact with the freshmen and we’ve developed this bond that hasn’t been established before.”

Another place restorative circles are being put into use are in English and Success classes. The restorative circles being used in English classes are often used in book discussions, while in Success classes they could be used for a variety of things. Mrs. Sheri Baize is one of the teachers using it in her classes to build a community within the class.   

“I’m using [restorative circles] in my Success classes to build more of a family type setting,” Mrs. Baize said. “It encourages people to share about themselves when they wouldn’t normally.”

After seeing some of the other success teachers using restorative circles in their own classrooms, Baize grew excited to use it in her own classes. She also felt nervous about how her students would respond during the sessions.

“The first one I did [was] after watching Mrs. Fry do one because I was so excited to do it. I’m excited to build a community in a classroom using them,” Mrs. Baize said. “[Using restorative circles] is challenging for me because it’s a different way of communicating with kids, and I’m kind of nervous because I don’t know what kids will share about certain things.”

While the main focus of restorative circles is towards community building and more active discussion, another way restorative circles can be used to acknowledge a student’s wrongdoing. This side of restorative circles is called repairing the harm, so instead of brushing whatever happened off with a detention, those who were involved get a chance to talk through how it affected them, why it happened, and ultimately go in the direction of making things right again.

“There’s another aspect about restorative circles that’s more towards discipline, where if a student does wrong in some way that harms someone else, you help the student talk to the person who was harmed, and talk about the damage that was done and what happened, and try to give them an opportunity to make it as right as possible,” Mrs. Harting said. “It’s just an opportunity where instead of just saying, okay, you had this classroom disruption, you have detention, and then never talking about it again. It’s an opportunity for people to talk through how they were impacted and the feelings they had as a way of moving forward.”