As we all begin to move towards our new normal in the school setting, teachers, children and parents, are all wondering how to manage the losses of Corona Virus and how to take forward the opportunities that have come from this experience.
Talking Circles are a great starting point. We have all experienced loss. For some of us it has been the loss of a friend or family member who has died because of the Virus and for some of us it has been a loss of connection with friends and family or the familiarity and security of our normal routine. For some of us it has been a loss of reprieve and distance from abusive family members whom we have had to stay in lock down with, or the loss of a predictable meal once a day at school.
Being able to express these losses in a safe place will be a key starting point in beginning to restore a sense of understanding, of control and of safety. Circles give teachers, parents and children an opportunity to express these losses so that we can begin to connect with each other again and find our common interest in planning ways to look after each other and heal as we move forward.
It is important to do this work before returning to the curriculum of schooling. Children, parents and teachers have all experienced an undermining of their feelings of security. And there still exists fear and uncertainty around the virus and if or how you might infect or be infected by one another. We know that when people are pre-occupied with their basic needs of safety and security, they cannot focus on engaging, problem solving or learning.
Google Classrooms, Zoom Meetings and Microsoft Teams among other digital platforms have been used to engage in live ways with children, and whilst these are great ways to communicate from distance, we must remember that for many children and parents, smart phones and digital platforms are not accessible. Poverty, poor network coverage and digital know-how, all have an impact on how accessible these formats of communication are.
So bear in mind that if you do choose to do a circle through online platforms before returning to the school room, take note of those children or parents who did not, or were unable to join and make sure you connect with them to ask the same questions, even if this means doing a "socially distanced" circle in the first week of a return to school. And don't forget your teachers, classroom assistants, and support staff.
Some Guiding Principles
Here are some suggested questions, loosely based on the restorative script which will help guide your discussions.
Don't forget to highlight the Circle Agreements for everyone before beginning. There are many variations of these, but as a core set of agreements I like:
Stay safe, and take care of each other, LJ
LJ Sayers is a restorative practitioner, trainer, mum, partner, mediocre saxophonist and excellent chocolate quality controller.