circle of hands

An Approach to Solving Conflict That’s Feminist and Fair

I’m sitting in a classroom of a small alternative high school in Washington, D.C., in a circle with two students who’d gotten into a physical fight the week before, and their families. We’re seated around a colorful cloth covered with meaningful objects. One of those objects is our talking piece, in this case, a hippo paperweight that belonged to my grandfather who passed away when I was in elementary school. The talking piece regulates conversation: whoever holds it has the chance to say whatever is in their heart and on their mind – and everyone else has the chance to listen deeply. Though I’ve notified everyone beforehand that this conversation will likely be different from what they’re used to (using a talking piece, for instance) their skepticism of this New Age-y, touchy-feely process is palpable. Still, we proceed.