Circle Technology

Restorative Justice in Oakland HS

Circle work, or circle technology as our team likes to call the magic that happens within circles, dates back to ancient cultures throughout the world. Diverse cultures around the world use circles to bring community together, to address issues, to heal, and to make decisions for their collective future.  Indigenous peoples of the Americas hold community council in circle, the peoples of Rwanda and South Africa hold circles of reconciliation, and the Quakers hold circle for community & spiritual practice; these are but a few examples.

The knowledge of circles was brought to us here in Maui, in regards to Restorative Justice, by Joe Brummer, a mediator & trainer in 39 schools in Connecticut. Circle work is simple yet profound. There are some key elements of a circle: a mindfulness moment, a circle keeper, a talking piece, and everyone in the room sitting in circle. The purpose of the circle at first is to bring people together, on an even playing field, to see one another. There is something transformative that happens when people are able to sit viewing one another, rather than looking at the back of the heads of the people in front of them. We begin to see one another, as people with lives, with families, with challenges, and successes. And what is magical about this? When we are able to humanize one another, to see each other as community members rather than students, teachers, or professionals, our sense of caring is activated and we begin to treat one another with a level of concern not present before. This brings a sense of belonging and connection. Circles create a doorway to ohana anywhere we have the courage to bring them.

Below is an outline of what one of our community circles might look like; the circle would be academic in nature and the flow is outlined below, however    Circles can be used for community building or conflict resolution a restorative circle, or teaching and more:

– Opening Circle, Check In

– Connective Game

– Inspired Lecture

– Connective Game

– Closing of Circle, Check Out


Check out these resources for more information on circles:

Circle Forward Building a Restorative School Community By Carolyn Boyes-Watson and Kay Pranis

Little Book of Circle Processes: A New/Old Approach To Peacemaking (Little Books of Justice & Peacebuilding) Kindle Edition by Kay Pranis