The Fishbowl: A Classroom Circle Story

This is a TRUE story told to me by Ms. Goforit – whose 7th graders had a small conflict (some name calling) the day before. Let’s call the involved students Angry, Bored, and Clever.

Ms. Goforit knew she did not have time to prep all the students for a circle – but wondered what would happen if she invited some of the students that were NOT involved in the conflict to do a circle prep/exploration meeting with Angry, Bored, and Clever.

Ms. Goforit then told the class that she was learning to facilitate circles and asked if they wanted to try one, since it was a pretty small conflict and a good one on which to practice.

She then got three student volunteers and sent each of these “Peacekepers” out into the hallway with Restorative Self-Reflection sheets, asking each Peacekeeper to go through the Reflection sheets with either Angry, Bored, or Clever.

After they returned, Ms. Goforit received consent from all the students to conduct the circle fishbowl style (since everyone had been there for the conflict the day before). Some students watched, and some continued to do their work in a different part of the room.

Ms. Goforit used Dominic Barter’s “time traveler” recipe (how are you RIGHT NOW; what were you wishing for BACK THEN and where do we go NEXT). Students heard each other, created new understanding, and expressed regret for their harsh words.

Afterwards, Ms. Goforit gave all the students the 5-question circle feedback cards – which showed high satisfaction for everyone involved.

The bonus was that after the circle, one of the Peacekeeper students asked if SHE could fill out the self-reflection sheet with Clever about a conflict she was having with another girl — who was not even in Ms. Goforit’s class.

When we combine high expectations with high supports for our young people – they can really shine!

by Elaine Shpungin, Ph.D.

(c) 2017 Conflict 180

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