Week of August 28, 2017
Three Ideas for Starting Off
The Semester
On a Restorative Note

Welcome back to a new school year!

Many of you have asked for ideas to start off the year on a restorative note of connection and team building.

Below, I talk briefly about the 80/20 rule of Connection and give you some quick ideas for beginning-of-year circle recipes and activities.

Idea 1: The 80/20 Rule of Connection
Idea 2: The Temperature Check

A temperature check can be the first question in a circle round - or a stand alone restorative practice. The temperature check asks us to get in touch with our feelings in the present moment. It teaches us self awareness and prepares us for more difficult conversations. For the facilitator, it gives a sense of the group and their needs.

I have used temperature checks for many years to begin staff meetings, dialogues, workshops, and circles.

Directions: Today we are going to practice a Listening Circle. A Listening Circle helps our listening muscles get stronger. And it helps us become a stronger group. When you have the talking piece, please say 1 or 2 words about how you are feeling right now. Try to speak from the heart and tell the truth. If you do not have the talking piece, your job is just as important. You are invited to LISTEN from the heart. A circle is a place where we try to listen to each other and NOT think about what we will say when it is our turn. Trust that when it is your turn - you will find the right words. If you have trouble listening, it is normal and I will gently remind you to keep working on your listening muscles. You can pass if you need more time and we will come back to you in the end. I will start to show that we are all dong this together. So, how am I feeling right now in 1 or 2 words?

To support youth AND adults in developing a richer emotional vocabulary, I often pass around a sheet of feeling words as a talking piece - and invite them to choose a word or two from the list.

Often, without the Feelings Sheet I get something like: "Fine. Good. Tired. Hungry. Fine. Fine. Tired."

However, with a sheet, I get something like: "Enthusiastic. Pleased. Exhausted. Distracted. Content. Curious. Drained."

You can get sample Feeling Sheets with or without photos at

(Reference: "Circle Forward" by Carolyn Boyes-Watson and 
Kay Pranis)

Idea 3: The Time Traveler

Those of you who are learning to do Conflict Circles with Conflict 180 may recognize Dominic Barter's Time Traveler as a great recipe for working with conflicts. However, the Time Traveler is also a great recipe for circles and ice breakers that mark beginnings and endings.

I have now heard of several schools that are using the Time Traveler to start off their faculty or staff meetings. It's also a great recipe to welcome new teachers, new students, and for starting and ending the week (Mondays and Fridays).

Introduce the Time Traveler just like you would any Circle - with similar reminders to those found above in Temperature Check.

PRESENT: The Time Traveler starts with a question about the present. This can be a Temperature Check round or a question like: How are you feeling right now about X (our group? the school year? your week? your weekend?)

PAST: The next round takes participants into the past. For instance: What was the best thing about (last year? this week?). What was the hardest thing about (last year? this week?).

FUTURE: The Time Traveler always ends with a question about the future that asks for a commitment or an action, like: What is one value you want to bring to your (teaching this semester? week? year?). What do you need support with this week to be your best? What is one action you can take towards your goals? etc.

As with all restorative recipes, the Time Traveler can be used in a circle with a talking piece (one question per round), or incorporated into ice-breakers, writing, visual arts, or other subjects and media.

Your imagination is the limit! Have fun and write to me about your adventures!

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What are Restorative Practices?
  • Practices that help people RELATE better
  • Practices that help REPAIR small rifts in relationships
  • Practices that RESTORE dignity and community after harmful acts
Visit for tools and tips.
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