“Based on the preliminary results, the “Circle Keeping” work [led by Yvette Murrell from World Trust] has exceeded our expectations and has allowed us to improve the educational climate of our schools using a sustainable and effective strategy.” Tony Shah, Assistant Superintendent, Liberty Union High School District.
“It’s a great way to listen up, and talk about what you have on your mind, that you often feel none of your friends understands. But in the circle everyone will understand and relate to your situations. There’s no judgement just support!” - Student Circle Keeper
In the fourth year of our work with the Liberty Union High School District in Brentwood, California, World Trust is implementing a district-wide curriculum of practice on Circle Keeping and Restorative Practice. In years one through three we worked with cohorts of faculty and administrative staff on issues of racial equity, justice and trauma-informed care. For the 2018-19 school year, the Superintendent decided it was time to get the students of the five high
schools directly involved. We are working with four groups of 12-16 students (the two small high schools combined into one group), chosen to represent the diversity of the district—there are students from all races, ethnicities, classes and genders, as well as athletes, activists, introverts and extroverts, geeks, and goofballs—all of whom agreed to be part of this process. Our focus is to expose students to the concepts of racial equity, restorative practices and
healing justice through the lens of circle process.
The sessions are grounded in the following principles:
Spaciousness -- Allow for what is in the space to rise to the surface and be held by the practices
we are engaging in. Participants are able to locate themselves in the space as they engage with
somatic practices, games and self-reflective discussion in circle processes.
Nourishment -- To deepen our experience of community, we must be nourished by our
energetic exchanges and learning environment. Participants engage in somatic practices and
games that allow for embodied learning and awareness. We change the rhythm and slow down
the pace to allow for heightened quality of attention to our collective learning.
Choice -- Activating power of voice and choice for how and what students choose to bring to our collective space together with mindfulness, reflection, and insight. Choice allows for students to make mindful decisions about sharing, listening, and acting in ways aligned with their values.
There are four sessions. The first is 4 hours and the others are 1.5 hours each. At the end of the school year, there will be a city-wide Circle Summit with all the students attending and holding circles in demonstration for city officials, School Board members, etc.
The first session establishes the historical context in which we are currently standing that
makes it possible for us to do the work of fortifying authentic community. The intent is that after the third session, students are ready to hold space as circle keepers for community building circles. We start with idea sharing, like, what does trust mean to you? What does equity mean to you? And move into more complex questions with more story sharing. How has violence touched your life? Tell a story about a time where you experienced a micro-aggression. How did you respond? We practice centering. Then ask, how might you respond differently from your
practice/place of centering?
In sessions two, and three, students experience the practice of setting up the circle space and leading centering practices, check-ins, go-rounds as well as games and debriefs. Between sessions three and four, students actually lead circle process and share their experience, their learnings and receive coaching from the World Trust facilitator. The final session is completely held/lead by the students. Students practice using their own circle keeping skills by practicing circle process. Students, in teams of two or four, will be prepared to be circle keepers who hold basic community building circle process, within the school community. Healing Justice Circle Keepers hold community building circles where their peers listen to and share space with each other as an act of liberation skill sharing.
Interested in bringing circle practices to your institution? E-mail our Director of Outreach Ginny Berson at email@example.com for more information.