Much of the power of the circle process resides in the talking piece – the object that we pass in order from person to person around the circle as we invite each person to speak or to pass.
Before sending the turtle around again, the teacher to my right wanted to ask a question. Earlier he had talked about some of the boys in his class who had a hard time sitting still and waiting for the taking piece to come around. Now he insisted on asking his question, while I was holding the talking piece. I continued my story. Then I sent the turtle around the circle again, starting with the person on my left – even though the teacher with the question (on my right) had clearly wanted me to give him the talking piece. As I let go of the piece, he blurted out, impatiently: “That’s what I wanted to ask” (that is, which way to send the talking piece). “And by sending the talking piece to your left you answered my question. You always sent the talking piece in one direction, and one direction only. That’s dogmatic and I think that’s awful.”
Marieke van Woerkom has worked in the field of cultural exchange, interfaith dialogue, conflict transformation, violence prevention and human rights for 20 years. She has been a Morningside Center trainer and coach since 2006, using SEL to strengthen school communities. Having seen the power of restorative circles around the world, Marieke is now helping lead our effort to bring this transformative process to public schools through Morningside Center's Restore360 Program.