Becoming A Circle Ways School

Whole-School Restorative Practices Implementation                                                                                            

Circle Ways partners with schools that want to implement a restorative approach to social-emotional learning, discipline, and school culture. With decades of experience bringing restorative practices and conflict resolution services to schools, families, organizations, and communities, we offer a whole-school approach to developing social and emotional skills, preventing and addressing misbehavior, building a positive school climate, and supporting students to achieve academic and lifelong success.

Restorative practices are grounded in age-old ways of indigenous peoples and in modern insights from the fields of psychology, sociology, law, education, neuroscience, and organizational behavior. Restorative practices are evidence-based, with a track record of benefits that include:

  • A safer, happier, more inclusive school environment
  • Fewer interpersonal conflicts and incidents of bullying
  • Reductions in suspensions and expulsions
  • Lower teacher turnover and burnout
  • More effective teaching
  • Greater student engagement and school satisfaction
  • Increased academic achievement
  • Greater equity in school disciplinary enforcement

Restorative practices include both proactive and responsive processes. Proactive processes, such as Way of Council circles, promote authentic, harmonious relationships and increase awareness of self and others. Responsive processes, such as mediation and conferencing, restore relationships that have been harmed in a way that meets the needs of those who have been hurt, holds accountable those who have caused the harm, improves everyone’s social-emotional skills, and preserves the dignity of all involved. Restorative practices also emphasize self-care through personal practices that support individual balance and well-being.

Research and experience have shown that restorative practices are most effective when implemented as part of a whole-school systemic change process that involves all school stakeholders. Restorative practices are not merely strategies for teachers to use with students. They are ways of being for the adults to practice in their own circles, too.

Systemic implementation of Circle Ways’ restorative practices program involves:

  • Establishing Way of Council practice among all members of the school community
  • Teaching and practicing self-care
  • Teaching and practicing social-emotional competencies
  • Implementing a continuum of restorative strategies for use when behavioral or relational norms break down

To achieve these goals, Circle Ways provides professional development and facilitation services that include:

  • Way of Council circles for social-emotional, academic, and student-directed learning
  • Restorative discipline processes to address incidents of misbehavior and harm and promote accountability within a context of care
  • Restorative personal practices to support each individual’s healthy body, mind, spirit, and psyche
  • Establishing a systemic, self-sustaining program tailored to each school’s needs

Becoming a Circle Ways school is a multi-year process to change behavior, transform culture, and shift consciousness. Full implementation takes 3-6 years with an emphasis on developing a program that can be sustained by the school independently. After an initial assessment to assure school readiness and fit, implementation progresses in three phases:

Phase 1: Foundational (years 1-2) 

  • Foundational whole-staff trainings and materials (Introduction to Council for Educators and Introduction to Restorative Practices for Educators)
  • Activate school’s Circle Ways Team (“CWT”)
  • Collect baseline data, set implementation goals, and establish measures of success
  • Regular professional development sessions and council circles for staff
  • Individual coaching for teachers and others through planning, classroom observation and co-facilitation, and debriefing
  • Guidance for site-specific curriculum development integrating circles with academic content, student interest, and social-emotional issues
  • Restorative mediations and restorative conferences facilitated by Circle Ways, as needed
  • Circle experiences for parents, families, and community

Phase 2: Progressing (years 2-6)

  • Continued:
    • Work with CWT on program rollout
    • Professional development sessions and staff councils
    • Individual coaching for teachers
    • Guidance for site-specific curriculum development
    • Circle experiences for parents, families, and community
  • Formative program assessment using data collection and stakeholder surveys
  • Training and materials for Restorative Self-Care
  • Activate Restorative Discipline Team (“RDT”)
  • Advanced restorative discipline trainings and materials for RDT
  • Individual coaching for RDT through planning, restorative mediation and restorative conference observation and co-facilitation, and debriefing
  • Advanced circle facilitator workshops and materials
  • Student leadership training and materials
  • Parent and community-participant leadership training and materials
  • Peer mediation training and materials
  • Circle space design and creation

Phase 3: Sustaining (years 3+)

  • Fine-tuning and support to create program sustainability, including:
    • Continued work with CWT on program rollout
    • Work with CWT on training and support for new staff
    • Work with RDT on restorative discipline implementation
  • Staff, student, and parent retreats (optional)