New communication initiative has Limerick schools going in circles

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Joe Power of the Limerick Restorative Practice Project with pupils at Scoil Mh‡áthair DŽ on the South Circular Road.
Joe Power of the Limerick Restorative Practice Project with pupils at Scoil Mh‡áthair DŽ on the South Circular Road.

“I like circle time because nobody has to be lonely anymore”.

Those were the words of an 11-year-old pupil in a Limerick City primary school in answer to being asked what he thought of a new initiative, called circle process, being introduced by the Limerick Restorative Practice Project.

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During the 15-20 minute facilitated process, the whole class sit in a circle along with their teacher and answer a series of questions about themselves. Circles can also be used to address sensitive topics such as bullying, social media safety or any other issues that arise in a fair and respectful way

For the past two months Joe Power, Restorative Practice Development Office, has been going to primary schools in the city and the service is also available to secondary schools.

He has been demonstrating to students and teachers what a circle looks like and has already demonstrated the process in five primary schools.

“But why do circles in the first place? Well, from whatever viewpoint you look at it, the circle process benefits students and teachers,” Joe told the Limerick Post.

“Want to improve relationships and the general atmosphere in the class and across the school? The circle will do this. If that’s not answer enough itself, it also improves social and emotional learning. Pupils have to listen, focus on what others are saying, wait their turn and develop the confidence and articulation skills to speak.

“They also gain empathy and insight into others, as they share things about themselves. And as if all that’s not enough, they also have fun and it improves learning outcome.

To help keep order and give one speaker the floor at a time, the facilitator uses a “talking piece”, in Joe’s case, Geri, a toy giraffe,

“The main rule in holding a circle is that only the person who can speak is the person holding the talking piece. Everyone else has to listen and they get their turn as the talking piece goes around. The kids are surprisingly quick to adapt to this however and many say their favourite part is getting to hear others and everyone having their turn,” said Joe. .

“Teachers have been enjoying it too. One teacher commented on how it was nice to be on “an equal level with the students for a change”.

If any school is interested in giving the free service a go they can contact Joe at [email protected] or log on to restorativepracticeslimerick.ie