Virtual restorative circles are the antidote for a great way to stay together when we must be so far apart. CA BOCES has been working with teachers across the region to focus on self-care, mindset, and the importance of positivity by providing virtual restorative circles. Virtual circles provide a place for teachers to connect, share ideas, and support each other through challenging times. It is also an opportunity for teachers to experience the social and emotional benefits of circle process and how this can transform into opportunities for supporting SEL with students through face-to-face, hybrid, and remote instruction.
The Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles followed the Kay Pranis circle process which includes an opening ceremony, mindfulness activity, establishing norms and guidelines, check-in rounds, guiding questions, and a checkout rounds. BOCES facilitators modeled through experiential practice with educators how these components could be present in instruction with students. We have all heard the popular phrase in education “Maslow before Bloom,” which is typically used to communicate that humans need their basic needs met before academic learning can be fully embraced. Self-Care Restorative Circles allows educators to embrace this phrase while embedding social emotional learning within the content they are teaching. Child psychiatrist Pamela Cantor told Edutopia in 2019 that “When we’re able to combine social, emotional, affective, and cognitive development together, we are creating many, many more interconnections in the developing brain that enable children t accelerate learning and development.” Allowing time to integrate social emotional learning into academics and content areas allows schools the opportunity to build relationships and make connections with students.
Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles model instructional approaches for educators to learn different ways to build connections with students during each component of the circle process. For example, educators might choose to start their day with an opening ceremony. This could consist of a morning greeting, short story, quote, poem, or even a song. Many of these could also be used during what is called a closing ceremony or ending a lesson. Educators also had opportunities to practice multiple mindfulness activities for all ages including deep breathing exercises, meditation, journaling, and opportunities or self-reflection. All of which could be transferred to instruction with students. The most common component to educators was establishing group norms and guidelines. Most educators start each school year off with this. The restorative self-care circles model for educators how to provide 2-3 non-negotiable guidelines while encouraging the students to develop additional guidelines that could be transferred to any learning platform. Participants also engaged in a wide variety of check-in and checkout strategies including the Fist-to-Five, Emotional Weather Report, and much more. Many might ask where does academic content fit into the circle process? Academic content is embedded in each component, but most visible within the guiding question rounds. During this time educators can check for understanding, introduce new vocabulary, discuss homework, build schema for introducing new lessons, and much more.
Below are a few reactions from participants across the CA BOCES Region that participated in Restorative Practice Self-Care Circles:
“I loved the gratitude session! I have an app on my phone that reminds me to list something I am grateful for everyday and I love it.”
“Enjoy these meetings every week! Love seeing others feeling the same as me. Great hosts!”
“I enjoy this every week! Allows one to feel accepted and important!”
“If I could give this professional development 10 stars I would!!! This is the one session that I look forward to attending every week. It is very organized, provides essential and necessary information, and always makes me feel good!”
As educators we must make the commitment to prioritize self-care to successfully be able to help others. It’s like the saying goes “You must put on your own oxygen mask before you can take care of others.”
By: Jillian Putnam, CA BOCES Professional Development