Restorative Practices Fall Frenzy

It has been a while since I last posted a blog. August and September are keeping me extremely busy. I want to share with you about the new things happening around restorative practices and my role.

Gateway to Restorative Practices

For ten years I’ve used my From Diapers to Diamonds website for restorative practices. It was less expensive to create a new one than to revise the existing page. I’m thrilled that Kim Eddy is creating my new page, Gateway to Restorative Practices. The logo is done! Colors were decided yesterday. Most of the images are selected. The content is written for all but one page. It is keeping me busy!

RP 201 Premiers October 21, 2023

RP 201: From ACEs to PACEs – Building Restorative Relationships is just around the corner. I share the content with the trainers in less than three weeks, on October 3. I have two challenges: I over-researched and I have too many ideas! Choosing from so many resources can be mind boggling. Right now, I’m eliminating articles I like for sections and choosing the best ones. The titles are so similar sometimes I get confused.

Less Training, More Research & Curriculum Development

Central Valley YFC begins its 11th year as contracted employees with Modesto City Schools. In 2013 we started with two trainers, Marty Villa, LMFT and me and five school sites. Now we’re at 34 school sites and have five part-time trainers. Four of the trainers are also marriage & family therapists, which adds great insight and people skills to our training. I will be working alongside them offering training tips.

I absolutely love doing the training and engaging with participants. In my part-time role I can’t do everything! I will still be presenting at some all-day trainings and workshops, but I’ll be doing even more of what I love which is also my expertise: research and creating curriculum! I feel blessed about the opportunity but now I’ll miss having the strong connections with the school sites. I’m adjusting to my new role. One of my school sites asked if I could do training every month. I instantly reply, “I sure can!” Then I remember. Final decision: I’m doing a fall and spring workshop!

Restorative Practices Webinars Flourish

Restorative Practices webinars have flourished since 2020. One way I stay abreast of restorative practices trends and research is attending webinars with cutting edge information and practitioners, I meet other colleagues who are passionate about restorative practices in schools and network with them. Some of my favorite providers are Panorama Ed, Generation Schools Network, San Diego County Office of Education, Empowering Education, Paces Connections, Pathways to Resilience, and Heinemann Publishing. I’m always getting notifications from these and new ones as well.

Most recently I attended NEAR Sciences: Beyond ACEs, the National Restorative Coaching Program, Restorative Justice in Fiction: Engaging Youth and Adults Through the Power of Story, and 10 Ways to Create Connections and Community that went right into RP 201. I’m looking forward to Reframing Restorative Justice for Advocates and Educators. Webinars are currently scheduled as far out as December.

First Restorative Practices Collaboration

I couldn’t wait for the first RP Collaboration of the school year with San Diego County Office of Education. Even though there were only seven of us, I was not disappointed! It is so fulfilling to share and learn from others who are committed to RP in schools using a circle format.

This is a free virtual event open to anyone interested on one Wednesday a month from 10:00 to 11:30 am. Registration is required. You can contact Jen Vermillion at to register if you’d like to participate.

Fall Updates

Every fall we complete school site updates with each school’s principal and AP or VP. Questions are generated from what’s occurred the past year. I met with staff on Teams from two elementary sites this fall. I was happy to hear about successes and able to offer a few suggestions for challenges. I sent both sites information about re-integrating students back into school after suspensions. A very powerful strategy for re-engaging learners.

I have way more updates than I realized! By mid-October I will post new blog topics more regularly. And soon they will be on my new website, Gateway to Restorative Practices!

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Restorative Practices Reflection Spring 2023, Part 2

My last blog post was part 1 of this blog post. You can read part 1 at

Monthly Collaboration

I was blessed to attend SDCOE (San Diego County Office of Education’s) monthly collaboration in April and May. I just registered for the first one in September for the 2023-24 school year. Here’s their description: “Restorative Justice Practices (RJP) Collaborative holds a monthly meeting where restorative practitioners in education come together to network, share ideas that could be helpful to other practitioners, and share successes as well as challenges being experiences while implementing RJP.”

It is a free virtual event one Wednesday a month from 10:00 to 11:30 but registration is required. Here’s the contact info to register if you’d like to join. Contact Person – Anthony Ceja (Email: For registration questions – Jen Vermillion (Email:

Training Proposal for 2023-2024

During the spring, I begin creating ideas for the proposal for the new school year. During the year I have opportunities to learn about what’s new in restorative practices and trends. Some of this year’s topics were professional development ideas for the week before school begins, new materials to distribute to site leads, strategies for the intervention centers, new workshops, monthly collaboration via zoom, and a restorative practices summer institute for 2024.

New Seminar RP 201

I recently posted on my Diapers to Diamonds Facebook page “I’m so excited to let you know that a new six hour seminar has been approved by the District. In addition to RP 101: Intro to Restorative Practices, we will be offering RP 201: From ACEs to PACEs: Building Restorative Relationships. We will offer each seminar three times during the school year. I’ll post the description soon. This is the third year I have proposed this seminar so I’m thrilled. Now I need to get busy. It is tentatively scheduled for October.”

So, I’m currently in my favorite part of my role. Doing research and developing curriculum for training. It is fun to see how I can connect research to interactive and engaging activities for adult learning. Off to do research. I’ll post again soon.


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Restorative Practices Reflection Spring 2023, Part 1

It feels a little strange to write a reflection about recent events, but it will finish the reflections for the 2022-2023 school year. In December I learned that we would be training the District’s newly hired behavior analysts in January. This kept me busy developing tier 3 strategies for them.

Also, in January I was able to lead a content circle for teachers at one of my school sites. Providing experiences in circles often fosters interest in circles and some become interested in doing circles with their students. In this case, I worked with two teachers on using community building circles.

My colleagues and I did a weekly workshop for five weeks for a school site. I did three of the five workshops. It is fun to get-to-know learners over time and connect their learning from workshop to workshop. It was during this time I found myself asking, why don’t I have circles as part of every Restorative Practices workshop I developed? I’m slowly integrating them into the 25+ workshops.

In March I attended a workshop with San Diego County Office of Ed called Restorative Leadership: Healing Our School Communities. My colleagues and I work with 34 school sites K-12. Having spent a decade training site teams and working with administrators who are Restorative Practices site team leaders, I’m very interested in RP leadership & sustainability. I appreciated the definition of restorative leaders and why they’re necessary. The table with oppressive leadership and restorative leadership provided key points for each. The restorative (servant) leadership fits both my professional and personal beliefs. We had several times to interact and learn from others. I’m so thankful for Mr. Ceja’s leadership. He leads SDCOE restorative practices program.

I’m looking forward to sharing the insights I gained with the administrators I work alongside. We are also modifying their acknowledgement of ancestors and community agreements for our RP 101 seminars during our summer planning.

In April I attended another San Diego County Office of Ed called Restorative Justice Practices Site Implementation and Sustainability. We began by looking at building a foundation of building trust and respect with staff and students. They recommended both holding staff and department meetings in circles and ensuring that staff have access to regular check-ins and become accustomed to using circles. From the feedback we received from site leads last fall, it appears that none of the schools I work with are practicing this, but I’ll continue pursuing this option with them.

We considered staff feeling overwhelmed with school initiatives as well as implementation science and continuous Improvement. Sites reach what’s considered full Implementation when at least 50% of the site’s educators are committed and implementing restorative practices and showing outcome improvements. They recommended using a site team for implementation which is how the training cohorts were originally set up. One of this fall’s update questions focuses on determining what implementation level each site is.

There’s more to share so I’ll post a second part to this blog post.


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2022 Fall Restorative Practices Reflections

The fall arrives sooner than expected. Christina worked diligently during the late summer getting the 34-school site leads scheduled to meet with one of our four trainers for a fall update on Zoom. Twenty-six site team leads spent time with us offering us insight to the transition back-to-school after Covid-19 and their restorative practices plans. For the most part, the input we received reported that students came back developmentally delayed by about two years in academics and behaviors.

Left Behind

We also learned about 2nd graders who arrived at school for the first time. These students are already two years behind. What does a teacher do with 2nd graders reading alongside classmates who can’t identify letters? The district also hired additional behavior specialists to work with students with out-of-control behaviors.

Re-engaging in Restorative Practices

One of the reasons we were so busy this year is that many school sites re-engaged in restorative practices after returning from Covid-19. Working with the school site staff is a privilege we don’t take lightly. We are blessed to walk alongside those who believe that restorative practices in schools provides a positive alternative to punitive discipline.

RP 101: Introduction to Restorative Practices

We did our first of seven all-day trainings on Saturday, September 16 called RP 101: Introduction to Restorative Practices. Participants can earn a stipend for professional development when they complete six hours. These trainings are really fun for us as trainers and for participants. I created the curriculum with engaging activities throughout the day that keep participants actively learning. The day is over before we know it!

My Restorative Practices for Educators Book Update

I’m still working on my restorative practices book. My editor at Heinemann Publishers edited my chapter, The Power of Affective Statements. She returned it with massive changes. I met with her via Zoom to find out if I was able to make the changes she wants – work on flow. We decided to move forward. She accepted my edited chapter months later.

San Diego County Office of Education Restorative Practices

On November 16, I had the opportunity to take a three-hour zoom workshop with San Diego County Office of Education. I get much of my research from this site as well as Oakland USD, LAUSD, and Minnesota Department of Education. The workshop was Alignment of PBIS & Restorative Practices. If you asked me prior to the workshop about my knowledge of the topic I’d say I was knowledgeable. I wasn’t!

They presented so many strategies on how Restorative Practices complements Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). I’m so thankful for the leadership of Anthony Ceja, Senior Manager, System of Supports and Robert Ruiz who handles the registration and technology end. I continued trainings and networking in the spring with their program. If you’re interested in their workshops you can access videos at Restorative Practices – San Diego County Office of Education (

Developing Six Workshops on Circles

One of our school sites requested more training on circles. Previously we offered a broader overview of workshops. In addition to the circle I mentioned in the summer update, Building Community Using Circles & Social Justice Picture Books (for Preschool-3rd grade), I expanded what we had into five more workshops:

·       Introduction to Circles: The Basics,

·       Community Building Circles,

·       Decision-Making Circles,

·       Academic Content Circles, and

·       Problem-Solving Circles.

There are plans to create an additional circle on Healing & Reintegration Circles. These workshops weren’t added to the workshop offerings until January 2023. I’m hopeful many school sites will select some of these for their restorative practices’ training hours for 2023-2024. To view a listing of the 35 or so workshops currently offered, visit I have a long list of potential new topics so stay tuned.

It was a busy fall. We even did RP 101 training on December 17. It was one of the rainiest days we had, but it didn’t hinder the participants’ enthusiasm for training. My next blog post will be 2023 Restorative Practices Spring Reflection.


Image Source: fall-colors-4702561 Michael Travis waterfrontagent []

2022 Restorative Practices Summer Reflections

As the 2022-23 school year winds down, I’ve been reflecting on the past year. This past year, the 9th year with the school district, has been the busiest for me and the other three trainers.

Just like we’ll do next month, we started off last summer with two planning days. I appreciate the three other trainers I work alongside, Kourtney, Sam, and Christina. From 2013 through 2019, I did the training as well as the day-to-day oversight of the restorative practices program. When we got to about 24 school sites, it became too many sites for me to handle on a part-time basis.

Leadership Change

That’s when Kourtney stepped in. She’s actually the Director of the Family Concern Counseling at Central Valley YFC. I was given the opportunity to write the transition plan so there would be continuity from person-to-person. This change allowed me to focus on what I enjoy most: training, research, and developing curriculum. I also reduced the school sites I work with directly. She’s an excellent collaborative leader and I enjoy working with her immensely.

Children’s Social Justice Books

Last summer I developed a new workshop titled Building Community Using Circles and Social Justice Picture Books for pre-school to third grade teachers. As a former child development professor, I love children’s books. I had so much fun seeing what was out there since I taught at Merced College. Unfortunately, not one elementary site selected the workshop for one of their trainings. I hope elementary sites will discover this gem. I’d love to create community building circles with ten more social justice books. Here’s a link to my blog post.

Parent Workshop

I also spent time developing more workshops for parents. Dodging the Power Struggle Trap is our most popular workshop. The trainers all thought this would be a terrific workshop for parents. Unfortunately, it wasn’t selected as a training for parents either.

Author Interview 1

I had the opportunity to interview two authors for my blog. Before I learned about this book, I met the author, Lynne M. Lang, founder and Executive Director at Restoration Matters. The internationally recognized initiative Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline (VBRDTM) began in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis with a focus on cultivating virtues as a strategy for ending bullying behaviors. I appreciate having some faith-based resources available. Here’s a link to my blog post.

Author Interview 2

Before I learned about the second book, I had also met one of the authors, Genevieve Price, through a referral. I was looking to talk with someone who is actually doing restorative practices with preschoolers.  was delighted when she shared about her book, Encircled: Bringing Family Virtue Circles Home, co-authored with Ann Polan. I love that this book is a tool to incorporate virtue education and discussion amongst families and is based on Colossians 3:12-15. Here’s a link to my blog post.

Early Kick-off

We started our restorative practices trainings earlier than usual. We actually had trainings scheduled in August. I had the privilege of training all the special education teachers and paraprofessionals at Davis High School on Restorative Practices and Special Education. As is true of most of the trainings we do, participants were engaged and eager to learn. It was a delightful experience to share with them.

I feel blessed that in 2013, the Lord opened the door for me to become a restorative practices in schools trainer and consultant. I can’t think of a better fit for my passion and gifts. In my next blog post, I’ll reflect on some of the fall 2022 happenings.


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Participants’ Myths About Restorative Practices Declines

During the first five years that I did Restorative Practices in schools trainings, much of my time was spent dispelling myths. Participants arrived at full-day seminars and workshops proudly ready to share their knowledge about RP. Unfortunately, most of their information was incorrect, but these participants were also operating at their school sites under the myths, further perpetuating inaccurate information.

Early Myths

Here are some common myths about Restorative Practices I heard regularly. Have you heard any of these?

  • Restorative Practices are just some touchy-feely programs.
  • Restorative Practices are just sitting in circles.
  • There are no consequences with Restorative Practices.
  • Restorative justice is soft. Students are not held accountable for their actions.

 Some of my attempts at sharing accurate information were met with hostility. That struck me as odd. Participants attended trainings to learn about implementing Restorative Practices principles at their school sites but stood solidly by their myths.

Recently during a Restorative Practices 101 six-hour training I realized that many myths that were so hard core a few years ago are now reduced to three common myths. Occasionally I hear an outlier myth, but these three still stand strong.

Three Still Standing Restorative Practices Myths

Myth #1. Students Can’t be Suspended

After almost a decade of training, this is the most common myth I hear; it is still alive and well. I’m told over and over, “We can’t suspend students.”

I inquire, “Where did you learn that?” They usually can’t come up with an answer. I add, “Restorative Practices is not against suspensions. The program offers many alternatives to suspensions, but there are times when the offense is such that a suspension is the only consequence.

Also, if a student doesn’t want to participate in an alternative restorative conference, the administrator uses traditional punishment. This next myth ties closely to myth one.

Myth #2: Restorative Practices are Mandatory for Students

Early in the day of an all-day training, the trainers share ten principles of restorative practices. One of the principles is that restorative practices are voluntary.

A participant shares, “At our site, students are told that restorative practices are mandatory. They don’t have a choice. What you’re saying makes so much sense.”

I assure the participants that Restorative Practices provides an alternative to traditional punishment, but it doesn’t remove it from being an option. In circumstances, such as bullying, it might not be appropriate for the bullied student to meet face-to-face with the student who is being the bully. It may cause more harm. If the student isn’t willing to take responsibility for his/her behavior, Restorative Practices isn’t an option. Restorative Practices requires participant’s acceptance of personal responsibility.

In the case of restorative conferences in lieu of suspension, sometimes the parents/guardians refuse. At one school site a restorative conference was set up with all the participants. The morning of the conference the parents of the student harmed backed out saying, “I want the student punished.” Parents/guardians don’t get to dictate punishment, but they can choose not to participate. The impending restorative conference was cancelled.

Myth #3: Restorative Practices Takes Too Much Time

I can’t envision a day when I won’t hear this myth. This myth is typically used to disguise, “I don’t want to do this.” The excuse isn’t necessary since it is voluntary not only for students but for staff, teachers, and administrators. Of the 34 sites we work with, eight school sites chose not to meet with a Restorative Practices trainer for a fall update in 2022.

Anytime we learn something new, it takes longer in the beginning. But as educators begin using the skills, the interventions take less time and become integrated into daily routines.

However, restorative conferences do take way more time than saying, “You’re suspended for three days.” Restorative conferences are typically led by administrators who believe the time spent is investing in helping the student learn from the mistakes. The student is challenged to make things as right as possible for the person(s) the student harmed, restore the relationship(s) if possible, and move towards healing and a plan for changing behavior, which is always a win.

How to Address Myths

If you hear myths about Restorative Practices, Restorative Practices Partnership Denver offers a few ways to address myths at your site in their article, Myths About Restorative Practices and How to Address It.1

  • Ensure that educators’ concerns about Restorative Practices can be voiced to a Restorative Practices expert who can help them dispel myths by responding with realities.
  • If the goals of Restorative Practices become foggy, offer booster training periodically.
  • When training on the levels of interventions used with students, be transparent about them when students are referred to the restorative practices process.
  • From the beginning be very clear about the expectations of implementing Restorative Practices. Don’t present Restorative Practices as a cure-all to fix all the school’s problems. clarify the purposes and day-to-day realities of restorative practices implementation.

What Restorative Practices myths do you hear on your campus?


  1. Myths About Restorative Practices and How to Address It. RPP (Restorative Practices Partnership) Denver.
  2. Image: Facts_Myths []



Am I Triggering Power Struggles with Students?

My colleagues and I had the opportunity to observe every three weeks at 12 junior and senior high schools at the newly established Intervention Centers. We spent about one and a half hours at each site. As a restorative practices trainer and consultant, I had the opportunity to witness many reasons students are sent to the Intervention Centers (what used to be called in-school suspension).

Reasons Students Are Sent to Intervention Centers

Yes, there are students who are sent to the Intervention Centers on a somewhat regular basis. Others are seen once, and they don’t return. But there’s another group often not talked about. It’s the students of teachers who refer countless times more students than most teachers. When I was a teacher at Johansen High School, the administrators recognized the five teachers who had the lowest number of referrals during the academic year.

On the other hand, the names weren’t announced, but the number of the three highest referrals were also mentioned. These referrals were in the hundreds. Typically, educators with high referral numbers create these endless referrals by engaging students in power struggles.

Pushing Buttons: Think About It

Take a moment to think of one student’s behavior that pushes your buttons. How would you answer the following questions?

  • What does the student say and/or do that triggers you?
  • How do you usually respond?
  • How does the student respond to your response?
  • If the educator engages in a power struggle with a student, who is really at fault?
  • Why do we send students to the office when educators engage in the power struggle and contribute to escalating it?

Setting the Trap

Some students are excellent at setting traps for educators. The list of how they set the trap is long. But here are a few traps. A student who intentionally tries to get into an argument with an adult. Any adult will do. The student exhibits challenging behaviors or refuses to follow the rules. The student is no longer interested in problem solving, but provoking others and being right.

Can you resist a power struggle?

I became aware that there are some educators who can’t resist a power struggle which results in the student being sent to the office. I want to send both the teacher and the student to the office when ultimately the teacher is the cause, not the student. From my observations over nine years, men are more often to cause power struggles with students than women, and the group of employees who demonstrate this most often are campus supervisors.

Answer: Dodging the Power Struggle Trap

In 2016 I developed what became one of our most popular workshops, Dodging the Power Struggle Trap. I created versions of this workshop for yard supervisors, campus supervisors, elementary educators, secondary educators, and even one for parents that hasn’t done given yet. For those educators who identify themselves as ones who create power struggles and want to change, this is very doable by applying the workshop’s content.

Authors Sikorski and Vittone explain how educators get into power struggles. “We’ve all found ourselves there before—involved in a tug of war, pulling hard on a metaphoric rope in an effort to gain or retain power. Whether in a professional, public, or personal realm, we may find ourselves regretting the thought process that convinced us to take up the struggle.”1

Staying Out of Power Struggles

How can you keep yourself from responding to power struggle traps?

There are numerous ways to de-escalate power struggles, but by far the best technique is not to allow yourself to get engaged in a power struggle with a student. Don’t pick up the rope. It’s that simple.

If you’re asked to be on one of two teams in a tug-of-war and your team refuses to play, no tug-of-war results. The same is true for power struggles. Simply refuse to pick up the rope and don’t play the game.



  1. Sikorski, Pam and Terry Vittone. How to Avoid Power Struggles.

April 18, 2016.

  1. Image: metaphor-tug-rope-competition []


Why I’m Adding Restorative Circles to Restorative Practices Workshops

My last blog post, Why Didn’t I Include Restorative Circles in Every Workshop? left me feeling disappointed in myself for not realizing the criticalness of this years ago.

For the three workshops on my schedule, I revised the workshops and added a circle component. I’m going to briefly explain the changes I made in each workshop and the impact on the participants and me as a trainer.

The First Workshop

The first workshop was the Power of Affective Statements. Although the workshop included partner activities, small group discussion, and self-reflection, it didn’t have a circles component.

After I got the small group into a standing circle, I introduced the concept.

“Today we’re going to do what’s called a check-in circle. Since we’re dealing with the topic of emotions today, I’m going to ask each of you to answer this prompt. What color describes how you feel today?”

With a reminder that they can pass the talking piece to the next person without answering the prompt, one-by-one participants state their color feeling. On my turn I share, “Mine is orange.” Various colors are mentioned nonchalantly until one participant says, “Black.” A collective hush comes over the group. The next participant holds onto the talking piece unsure if she should add her color or not. After a brief pause, the circle continues until everyone has shared.

As the circle keeper, I’m concerned about such a dark answer. I wonder, what happened today? What’s going on? What’s behind the answer? How can I support this person?

Quietly talking with my colleague later, I gain insight into a few brief details and offer some encouragement. I wonder, what if I hadn’t used a check-in circle today? I would have been the one in the dark.

Second Workshop

Restorative Apologies: Beyond Just Sayin’ Sorry is the next workshop. This time I created several community building circle prompts instead of using the existing discussion questions. The first four prompts go well until the last one. “Forgiveness means …” A few participants articulate an answer, but the majority simply say, “Pass,” in a hushed voice.

Based on their responses, I decided I’d include some personal examples of forgiveness to potentially open the discussion. This fosters some personal responses around the struggles with forgiving ourselves and others. Several participants honestly share about their struggles with forgiveness.

Third Workshop

More Affective Guidance Techniques with mostly the same participants as the two previous workshops. I notice that two participants drag themselves into the classroom. Before the workshop officially begins, I speak with them individually.

After the past two workshops the group knows the routine. Today’s prompts seem fairly “safe,” so I’m not too concerned about the responses. I say,

“Today we’re doing what is called Fist-to-Five. Using your hand, you will show how your day has gone. For example, a five might be an excellent day where a fist might be a horrible day.”

I hold up three fingers and say, “I’m a three today,” The young man next to me proudly proclaims, “I gotta say, I’m a five.” But as answers are shared, the numbers are low. I notice one zero, two ones, and two twos. There’s more going on here than meets the eye. When the talking piece returns to me I say, “It sounds like some of us are struggling today. Let’s take a few deep breaths together before we continue.”

The workshop is officially over but the participants want to continue the “discussion.” After stating that they are free to leave, but I’m willing to stay if they want to continue, they stay another seven or eight minutes. I listen to their concerns and assure them I’ll share them with their administrator.

Nothing was resolved that day, but participants had a chance to voice their frustrations and problem-solve ideas while I was able to listen to their concerns and facilitate further discussion.

New Resolve

After every training session, I reflect on how it went. How were participants engaged? What parts didn’t they understand? What changes can I make to improve the workshop? What should I delete? The good news is that with four trainers presenting workshops over multiple years, improvements are made regularly, often based on observations and interactions with participants.

After adding circle prompts to these three workshops, I feel hopeful. I witnessed the impact the circle prompts had on the participants and me. As a trainer, I typically begin training after welcoming and chit-chatting with early arriving participants. But that didn’t give me insight into their lives like using circles prompts did. When using the circles, I felt empowered to actively engage in participants’ lives beyond simply the content.

Agenda Item

After that three workshops that I specifically added a circle component to were completed, I asked for an agenda item at our regular Restorative Practices collaboration meeting. Agenda Item: Adding check-in circle prompts to workshops and why.

Why? Because there’s power in circles to connect with others and build relationships. The trainers can not only talk about life-changing circles but practice them with others. Relationships truly build the foundation for restorative practices.


Image source: All of these Emotions of Mine – Chiaroscuro Self-Portrait []


Why Didn’t I Include Restorative Circles in Every Workshop?

Over the past nine years I’ve created over 40 one-hour workshops in addition to full-day trainings on restorative practices in schools. I’m an absolute research nerd. People don’t typically get their doctorate if they’re not. I’m cognizant of how many hours of research I do for a given topic and keep the end goal in mind. The research provides the foundation for the workshops or seminars.

Combining Research

Although I love the research, the fun part is synthesizing it and creating a workshop structure with engaging learning activities and strong practical application. I ensure that it is all based on adult learning theories that pull everything together. Many of the workshops I developed include various restorative circles because of the workshop’s content, but not all of them.

Recently I’ve been contemplating how foundational community building circles are to creating relationships between staff and students as well as student-to-student relationships. For some reason, it has been challenging to convince many educators of the value of using circles regularly to build relationships that strengthen connections on campus.

The 80/20 Circles Principle

Sometimes an educator becomes interested in doing circles but not until a behavior incident occurred. The problem with this is that it goes against a foundational principle and usually doesn’t work. Here’s a quote that explains why it doesn’t work.

“Eighty percent of circles should be proactive. That means using circles to be collaborative, to engage students and get their input and opinions on things.”1

Dealing with challenging behavior fits the 20% types of circles, such as problem-solving or re-integration circles after a student returns from a suspension. For 20% of circles to work, 80% of circles need to be proactive circles that foster building relationships, like community building and decision-making circles.

Circles Build Relationships

If circles provide the relationship building foundation, why didn’t I include some form of circles in every workshop? Sadly, I missed opportunities to impact those my colleagues and I are training. At this point, I can move forward and take action. I’m creating circles for my upcoming workshops that don’t currently include a circle component. You can read about what happens in my next blog post.



  1. Costello, Bob, Joshua Wachtel & Ted Wachtel. Restorative Circles in Schools: Building Community and Enhancing Learning. International Institute for Restorative Practices. Bethlehem: Pennsylvania, 2010, p. 47.
  2. Image: The Pareto Principle []

Using Circles to Review Homework Assignments, Part 2

In my last blog post, Using Circles to Review Homework Assignments, Part 1, I featured Frederick Community College’s circle approach around homework. Community college students struggle with completing assignments like many of our students do. Students need help meeting the challenges that keep them from completing assignments. One type of circle was featured in my last blog post. Today I’m featuring two more circles to address homework challenges.

Sentence Stem Circles Address Homework

A second circle is using a simple sentence stem check-in prompt at the beginning of class or a check-out prompt at the end of class. This offers students an opportunity to reflect on their learning. Sentence stems are short and specific. For this type of circle, students stand in a circle. For check-in and check-out circles, only one prompt is used at a time. Here’s a list of sentence stems to choose from.

  • “What is one thing you learned from last night’s homework?
  • What is one question you have about last night’s homework?
  • What is one thing you remember about the reading of _____?
  • What is one question you have about the reading of_______?
  • What is something you understand about ______?
  • What is something you don’t understand about _____?”1

 Traditional Circle for Completing Homework

The third circle I’m featuring is a more traditional circle. Because you will ask several prompts, it is typically too long for students to stand. Instruct students to move their chairs or desks into a circle usually around the perimeter of the classroom. Younger children can form a circle on the carpet.

Talking Piece. Select a talking piece which is anything that can be passed easily and safely from one person to another. Only the person holding the talking piece can talk. Those who don’t have the talking piece have the opportunity to listen intently. Over time, students will form a circle in less time than when you first start using them and learn more self-control to wait for the talking piece to talk. Choose three to four of these prompts for one circle time.

  • How are you feeling about completing your homework on a scale of 1 to 10? Ten means you complete all assignments.
  • What about homework makes it important or meaningful to you?
  • When is homework not important or meaningless to you?
  • When you don’t complete your homework, how do you feel?
  • How do you feel when other students don’t complete the homework?
  • When you finish your homework, how do you feel?
  • Thinking about homework assignments, what was a useful homework assignment for you?
  • When you think about homework, what is challenging for you?
  • Imagine that you’re the teacher assigning homework. What homework assignment would you give and why?
  • What could you do to improve your homework completion?

With three circle choices to address completing homework or assignments on time, I’d love to hear which circle(s) you chose to do and how it went.


  1. How to Create Circle Questions for Classroom Learning. No author. January 25, 2021.
  2. Image source: Excuses sign [ 221434]