First Week: Day 3 - Talking Piece
I have to say, I was never the "mushy, gushy, touchy, feely" type. When I first started reading about circle practices and restorative practices in the classroom, I wasn't sold. Talking about feelings and having small rituals felt silly and a little bizarre. I thought my students would see right through the weird construction of my community meetings and it would cause them to disengage and tune out.
The talking piece is another component that could be making you feel like, "really?" but there are so many benefits to this practice that have totally sold me. The first benefit is having a non-verbal cue for turn taking. It keeps me from jumping in and taking autonomy away from the students. Instead, they pass and give the talking piece to the next student or someone who looks eager to speak. I can manage that with a head nod or a gesture instead of directing them. Second, as the school year goes, circles are used to solve classroom problems. Using the talking piece keeps students from interrupting each other when the conversation gets heated and avoids one student from dominating the conversation. It slows down the pace of an argument. The last benefit of the talking piece is how it forces two disagreeing parties to pass the object back and fourth. It silently implies that they value what the other has to say as they pass off the piece, and looking each other in the eye reminds them of the other's humanity. It sounds ridiculous, but this structure has the power to help students diffuse their own argument.