“It falls flat…every time.”
Such were frustrated words of an intervention teacher who was trying to implement restorative circles. Some interventionists are attempting to replace guided reading groups with using same leveled books to grouping students by their instructional needs. Others are required to follow curricular mandates or scripted reading programs, but are attempting to add elements of response, repair, and restoration.
A restorative circle about literacies circles can certainly occur too! Either among educators who are trying to fold literacies circles into their days or among the class or group itself.
How can educators shift their mindset from expertise and intervention to that of building relationships along with showing warmth, vulnerability, and empathy?
Is the topic relevant, important, and in context? With a sense of urgency and connection coming from the students themselves?
Is the topic universal to all? Or specific to a targeted group where the targeted group (or person) smells a rat?
Is the initial topic flexible enough to change directions? Or to expand upon?
Does everyone feel safe to speak their truth? Is everyone really listening? Or is everyone just muddling through the routines, just because the teacher says so?
Is the adult in the room directing and talking too much? How do we get used to moments of silence and pauses for formulating thoughts?
Many students are used to traditional and authoritarian teaching. Do they need more time, trust, and practice before opening up?
Does it help to have intergenerational community members participate too?
Should the literacies circle be more formal, such as using a talking-stick to go around? Or less formal and conversational? Does it need to be a seated circle or can it be a huddle? Can it go in a different room, say a library? Outside under a shade tree?
Does the conversation merge cognitive, linguistic, social, and affective aspects of a topic rather than just a skill to be taught?
There is still a place for direct instruction. Is the topic one that needs to be explicitly taught? Then, by all means, teach.
How can educators walk the line between “being the adult in the room” and as equal participants of a literacies circles?
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