and Learning in Circle
this article, Greg Lewis explores the impact of teaching
using a circle format, both at the high school and
college level. The piece comes from
a session presented at "Dreaming of a New Reality," the
Third International Conference on Conferencing, Circles
and other Restorative Practices, August 8-10, 2002,
truly listen is to risk being changed forever.
- Sakej Henderson
begin with an exercise:
Why do you teach?
What would transpire in your ideal classroom?
your favorite unit:
Why do you teach it?
Why is it part of your curriculum?
you glad to be asked these questions? Are they challenging?
Have you been asked them before? Could you see these questions
as the basis of a faculty meeting? What about a department
meeting? Why or why not?
imagine a faculty meeting where these questions are
Your Principal or Vice-Principal (high school), or Dean
or Provost (college) is at the front of the room with
an overhead projector. S/he is poised to write your
Are you still glad to be asked these questions? Are they
still challenging? Are you one of those who calls
responses immediately? Do you "hang back"?
Start to wish you were somewhere else? Fantasize that
somewhere else? C.S. Lewis writes that the best way to
ensure that there will be no good conversation is to
"Now! Lets have a real good talk."
 Is there a better
way to have this conversation? If the questions are
why does the context make us uncomfortable? I believe
that there is a better way to speak, to listen,
to teach and to learn - Circles. This "better
could be a reality for us and for the students we teach.
The Circle Process - Introduction
your cultural or ethnic background your ancestors probably
sat in circle. Many of the stories that we call sacred,
many of the laws we have were originally told or made in
is very difficult to define Circle, as it is a process.
It is a process where every individual truly becomes a better
teacher and learner. One of the best explanations I have
seen comes from Kay Pranis, Barry Stuart and Mark Wedge
who see Circle as the creation of a safe space that:
people to seek ways of moving beyond differences in
‘good way’ to build better relationships.
It is not that all Circles draw out only the good in
but Circles do profoundly encourage and enable people
to take the ‘high road’, to share with others
in a ‘good way.’…Thus, more emphasis
must be given to improving the game, not winning the
and solving problems, not head to head, but side by side.
Circles create the spaces for disagreement without
are many kinds of circles, Talking Circles, Healing Circles
(or circles of understanding), Sentencing Circles, Planning
Circles, Women’s Circles – virtually any kind
of gathering where there is to be conversation or discussion
can be held "in Circle".
the time that we are "in Circle" we agree to be
our best selves – during this time together we put
aside any differences that we had when we walked in the
door and we mark this space and this time as sacred.
use a " talking piece" to control the flow of
information in the circle. And we agree to certain guidelines.
These guidelines typically include:
from the heart
community will want to add its own guidelines and should
revisit the guidelines frequently. These guidelines should
be endorsed by and have input from the entire learning community.
that everything in the circle is an invitation – when
you have the talking piece you are invited to speak, but
you may pass. When you do not have the talking piece you
are invited to listen.
project of Campus Conflict Resolution
Supported by a FIPSE grant from the US Department of Education
and seed money from the Hewlett Foundation-funded CRInfo
to CMHE Report
(Attn: Bill Warters)
Campus Conflict Resolution Resources Project
Department of Communication
585 Manoogian Hall
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI 48201.
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