IIRP alum Ben Emery is working with the Colorado Restorative Justice Council and blogs at RestorativeJusticeColorado.org. He writes that he kept hearing about good work happening by the Longmont High School Restorative Justice Team, where teenagers are "facilitating circles, organizing pre-conferences, and even training younger students." When he talked to students about recording an interview about the blog, Sophomore Savannah Iverson stepped in and offered to write a 3-part series. From part 1:
Before I joined the RJ team, I often played supporting roles—whether it was in drama, basketball or even group projects in class. I didn’t really want to speak out or be the leader. I would rather just sit back unless I really needed to. After I joined and started being a more active member, I notice that I automatically took on that leadership role, and I feel confident that I am a good leader. I feel like I know what I am doing, and I recognize what needs to happen and figure out what needs to be done. I am able to analyze the situation better, and think about different outcomes. I am really good at giving options, soliciting feedback from my peers and making sure that everyone has a voice and say. As a group, we usually end up finding a good outcome, and the group as a whole decides what is best. It’s extremely similar to a circle process, the wisdom of the group is really important.
When getting to LHS Freshman year, not really knowing what to expect, I stayed around what I knew the best, which was RJ because I did my trainings over the summer and I sat in quite a few circles from the community program. Within the first two weeks of school, I was already Co-facilitating, and leading connection circles at team meetings. I really didn’t spend much time as a community member, but instead moved straight into facilitating. Team facilitating was really good for me because I got to work with other people, I got the opportunity to observe how they lead the circle and learn from their skills, and start to practice how I could use them. One of the things that I learned to do really well was to ask good follow up questions to get a better understanding of the story that is being told. I learned to handle heightened emotions from the referred student and their parents. I also learned how to manage my own anxiety in the face of that. I feel like I am more confident at upholding ground rules, keeping things respectful, carefully and skillfully naming the challenging behavior and switching back to respecting and following the ground rules.
I have noticed that my ability to talk to many different types of people has increased. Before freshman year, I knew how I was “supposed” to communicate, but now I feel more confident in using the communication skills that I have naturally. I am much better at working with parents, modulating my tone and learning to switch between talking to adults and kids. I have a better understanding how to be more professional, and I am better at recognizing emotions, small signals and body language. I know how to relate to people of all ages, I have become more of an active listener and knowing what that entails. When I speak, my thoughts are more organized and clear, and I try to use "I Statements" as much as possible but that is still a work in progress, because that really is not always an easy thing to do.
Part 2 of this article appeared here.