This concept caught my eye, as a former middle school teacher, I am well aware of the conflict that forms within a classroom, especially in the ninth grade. At Audubon Technology & Communication Center High School, in WI, they use circles to resolve conflict. “Maybe 10 people, mostly other ninth-graders, sit in a circle, with some object like an electric candle in the middle. You can’t talk unless you’re holding on to a ball or a little figure or something that that you have to pass around to each other.”

I used this exact same technique as a new teacher, at Zion JHS in Toronto. I didn’t know any other way to create some sort of order in my classroom, so I created something that was a treat for my ninth grade students, called “Camp Fire.” We pretended we were in the woods, in the middle of nowhere, and I would ask each student to tell me something good that happened to them this week. It would always take their mind off of what was going wrong, as it helped them to think of what was going right.

My students loved Camp Fire, and so did I. I will never forget that for this half hour, on Fridays after lunch, I was able to have excellent conversations with my students, who were usually completely out of control.

Audubon Tech School noted that “there had been only four suspensions so far this school year among about 100 ninth-graders at Audubon.”

These results are astounding! If you want to see a difference with your ninth grader, why not try to create a fun environment like Camp Fire, where you encourage your young teen to have open discussions about their feelings. Let me know how this goes.

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