Adventuring

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Gratitude List:
1. The little zen sandgarden that my mother gave me years ago. I keep it on the desk in the front of my room and students often come up and rake it and talk to me. Some are incredibly careful and thoughtful, making order. Others come up and scrape and scratch with the little rake until I want to grind my teeth, but they’re working something out, too, as much as the order-makers.
2. Yesterday’s restorative circle work. It was painful and hopeful. There’s individual work to be done yet, but they’re moving toward healing. I now feel that this story is linked to my own, and I have a responsibility to keep my eye out for these particular students.
3. Being at a school where the work of restoration is taken so seriously. There was at least one other restorative conference yesterday, and I know that others occur regularly throughout the week. This is a community where I know that all students will be taken seriously and cared for, even when they mess up. Especially when they mess up.
4. I got home yesterday from school to see two pages of comic sketches that Joss had done after we left for school in the morning. I was really hoping that the graphic novels we have been eating up would inspire him, and they did.
5. Windy weather. Adventure weather. We’re going to my friend Marie’s sale today–that will be our adventure.

May we walk in Beauty!

Helpful Friends

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Poor little Pippi encountered a deer in the morning gloaming on Ducktown Road yesterday. She’ll be out of commission for a little while.

Gratitude List:
1. Neither Ellis nor I were hurt in the collision. I am not so sure about the other guy, a large (8-point, perhaps?) buck. I thought he was dead. He just lay there where he had fallen, under the guard rail, but just as I had collected myself enough to think about getting out to check on him, he leaped up and dashed into the woods. Poor guy. I hope he survived.
2. Friends who help in a time of crisis. Julie Flinchbaugh, for comforting us and giving Ellis some apple cider. Erin Darby, who drove the carpool to Lancaster on a moment’s notice. Jon, who was my telephone anchor–I kept calling him because I didn’t know what to do. My parents, who gave us their second car while Pippi Prius is at the Dentist. (This is one of our favorite puns. Not only is she having her dents repaired, but the owner/operator of the garage that takes care of our vehicles is our neighbor, Den.  Den-dent-dentist: get it?)
3. Restorative conversations. This morning I get to help with a restorative conference at school. I went into the Restorative Circle training a couple weeks ago with a little trepidation, worried that my anxieties about conflict would keep me from really being able to do this kind of work. This morning, I feel really ready to participate, to ask questions, to help facilitate this conversation. I am eager to be part of this kind of work.
4. Flaming trees. They say that the color will be sort of “meh” this season, after the summer’s dry weather, but the maples didn’t get the memo. They’re pulling out the stops.
5. Yesterday’s singing in chapel. We sang “Tu Eres Todopoderoso,” a song from Mennonite World Conference. I love that song.

May we walk in Beauty!

Opportunities for Practice

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Sometimes it seems as though the Wildest One (you might call her God, or the Universe, or Love) is actively meddling in the affairs of mortals, like I am given a thing to learn, and then immediately after am handed the situations necessary for practice and integration.

Last weekend, I took part in a training with the Center for Community Peacemaking on Restorative Circles with Kay Pranis, a thoughtful wise woman who gave us many tools for using the idea of a circle to bring restoration to broken relationships when harm has been done in a community.

In the two days since I have been back to school, I have encountered several situations in using a circle tool in the classroom helps to facilitate the discussion or to ensure that a student expressing a feeling or opinion feels safe. Yesterday at the beginning of class, one student began sharing her concerns about the political process. Other students began to jump in and talk over her, encouraging her and debating her points. She is very soft-spoken, and I was afraid that her moment of vulnerability would disappear into the fray, so I took a stone to her desk, said that while she had the stone, the rest of us were empowered to listen, and she continued. When she was finished, she just naturally handed the stone off to the next person, and a relatively respectful circle ensued.

In another class, the sharing of papers can get tedious, and some of the students tend to be anxious about sharing their writing. I handed a talking piece to one of the boys who seems to take a quiet leadership role in the class, and said that we’d send the talking piece around the circle a couple times. People could share parts of their papers or pass. In the first round, the girls (it’s a very small class) both passed, and I thought that maybe it was a bad choice to do it this way, but in the second round they both shared, and a boy who strongly dislikes English class also shared, making up an answer to one of the writing prompts on the spot–it allowed him to use his verbal strengths in community, so his sense of inadequacy about the writing was suddenly moot. Again, the students seemed to have a natural understanding of the process of the talking piece and turn-taking.

Along with those delightful examples is situation of harm that needs to be addressed. I need to work through with the student in my class who was at the receiving end of a very harmful comment whether a circle might be the place to address the harm that occurred.

So. Along with the learning comes the opportunity to practice. May I be open and ready to use the tools I have been offered.

Gratitude List:
1. The way the mists and fogs hang about the fields in the mornings
2. Practice. Opportunity to practice
3. The shining eyes of my students
4. Poetry. Yes, again. Yesterday after I had read the Dawna Markova poem I had chosen for my opening poem, a boy asked if I had ever heard of Langston Hughes. I told him that yes, I had even posted a Langston Hughes poem to my Facebook page the day before. I will have to bring a Hughes poem to class this week.
5. The hope of restoration

May we walk in Beauty!