New year, new school, new faces greet me at our first official staff meeting. I am nervous… even as an experienced teacher. The age old questions sit in the back of my mind as I smile and make small talk. “Will people like me?” “Will I fit in?”
The assistant principal calls everyone together in what she calls a “restorative circle.” As 50+ people work out the kinks of creating a “circle,” the principal explains that your response should be honest and anyone in the circle can “pass.” A restorative circle is a safe place to share and you don’t have to share if you don’t want to.
This sentence stem is posed:
I teach because….
A powerful statement.
As I listened to each teacher comment, my own reasons started gathering in my mind. I know why I teach. Yet… as I listened to each response, my own thoughts became muddled… insignificant. I couldn’t put my thoughts to words.
“I am Raquel Dixon, fifth grade teacher. I pass.”
I was the only teacher who passed that day. I was frustrated with myself… “way to make a good impression,” I thought to myself.
The message I did get that day: Restorative Circles are a powerful way to build relationships. Teachers should use these everyday.
Flash forward: Second “real” day of school and I was trying my first restorative circle with my class. We assembled into an amoeba like circle and I explained the “norms”. One person would talk at a time and that it was okay to “pass.”
A hand went up. “I can really pass?”
“Yes… I passed in my first restorative circle. It is okay to pass.”
That day five students “passed.”
Why did they pass? I don’t know. I know why I passed, and it had nothing to do with words. It had to do with trust. Can I trust you with my thoughts and feelings? I wonder if my students who passed felt the same way.
I am Raquel Dixon, fifth grade teacher. I teach because I can be myself and it feels like home.