Circle It Up: All in the Name of Community

It’s not foreign for me to be talking about my problems in circles. ~Matthew Perry

As a part of our re-visioning for a newly expanded middle years program (grades 7-9), we made it essential that we could have a designated space for a twice-a-day circle to fit 49 students, five staff members, and room for a guest or two.

How in the world would that work? Surely, with a large group of pre-teens chaos would rule supreme? Are you guys nuts? Yes, we, and others, felt a great deal of doubt about the efficiency let alone the efficacy of have such a large circle. They were list be a few doubters: too crowded. much too impersonal, lack of safety for sharing, distractions. Indeed, at first glance the benefits are far outstripped by the irrationality of the venture. Looking chaos in the eyes we went ahead with the twice day ritual (or possible disaster).

After only three weeks and a couple dozen circles, we asked the students for their thoughts. Here are some of the highlights:

I feel safe enough to be heard.

I can see everyone and they can see me. There’s no hiding [in a circle].

It shows that were [sic] together.

It’s kind of like a big family. I like it.

I feel ike [sp] I can be heard by everyone.

It forces you to listen and [pay] attention.

I guess i [sp] have to wait my turn to say something.

We are now four months into our experiment and while we have had some wild and woolly moments as a group in our 360 degree setting, there is no doubt that the power of the circle has had profound influence as a community-builder. At times, it has been w

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