Books to Win! February Guest Blogger is Cristy Watson!
Win one of two books! Be entered to win one of two novels when you subscribe! February guest blogger Cristy Watson talks about her life as a Canadian author, educator and leader in the Peace Circles movement. The opportunity to have an established local author write for us this month is an honor. So subscribe to win one of her novels; grab a cup of coffee and sit down to learn about this amazing and talented author.
Subscribe Now to Win One of Two Novels by Cristy Watson!
The Books will be Shipped to our Two Winners!
Name: Cristy Watson
School District: Langley School District
Degree and Institution: Bachelor of Education, University of Calgary and Post-Baccalaureate, SFU
Current Role: District Teacher of Restorative Action
Any hyperlinks we should know about – including where we can buy your books.
Orca Book Publishers: http://www.orcabook.com/cw_contributorinfo.aspx?ContribID=386&Name=Cristy+Watson
ON CUE, LIVING ROUGH and BENCHED
I have also written books for the Sidestreet Series, Lorimer Publishers and they are aimed at high school students.
Cristy’s Social Med
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/watsoncristy/
Twitter: luvshakespeare https://twitter.com/luvshakespeare
Who are three people that inspire you and why.
It is difficult to narrow this list to three people. Dan Basham, former employee at CJI and Peace Circle Facilitator, extraordinaire, is definitely tops on my list. He has helped so many Langley youth work through conflict and I admire his tenacity and his human-ness!!
I am inspired by the youth I work with daily. When they embrace a Peace Circle and help themselves move forward or work through conflicts or do a good deed for someone else, they become my heroes. Really, anyone who sticks up for someone else or shows empathy to a person in need, inspires me to continue my journey of Peace!
How did you get to be where you are?
I began working as Child and Youth Care Worker before I found a teaching position and it was a job where I worked with at-risk children and youth in a classroom setting. I then began teaching at-risk youth. All of those young people with whom I shared a classroom, struggled to maintain relationships with their peers and with adults. I spent most of my day helping them restore and rebuild connections in the classroom and community. So, even though I taught Language Arts and Math, my main thrust was in supporting their learning in Social and Emotional Literacy. Many of these young people were also non-readers and I used to wish their were books I could guide them towards that supported their current reading level but also spoke to them in terms of interest. Now, I write hi-lo books for that reason, so youth can have access to books that meet their current needs. I hope to help nurture literacy in all our youth. And the Peace Circles are a perfect fit, given the work I have done in schools over the past thirty years.
Tell me about Peace Circles?
In a Peace Circle, the students sit in a circle and use a talking piece to share their thoughts and feelings with one another. We use prompts that help guide the discussion. Peace Circles build connections and community through dialogue and activities. Students learn empathy and listening skills by participating in Peace Circles. They are also a safe place where conflicts with one another can be resolved in a supportive environment. We teach skills along with our sharing time, that help students build a repertoire for solving conflicts, peacefully.
Why are Peace Circles so important?
Children and Youth need a place to be heard. We are often so busy with our daily schedules we don’t have opportunities to check-in with every student. Many teachers tell us the circles have given them insight into their students lives within the classroom and in the community. The circles also help students build community, and people who are connected and care about one another, work harder to resolve conflicts when they arise. We also teach emotional literacy and even young children come to value this time of ‘being’ with one another.
Can you tell me more about the impact the Circles have had?
I have heard from many teachers that having Circles in their classrooms helped to diminish the conflicts in the class. The teachers shared that students often resolve issues on their own and now have tools for helping themselves and others when they are in conflict. Even with adults, after using Circles through professional development, there is a sense of community that builds within the group. Students who have finished the ten-week Peace Circles, often ask for us to return when they are struggling with an issue as a group. Having experience with a circle has also made it easier to use this format to confront bullying in the classroom in a safe way that honours everyone’s input and helps people move forward. We currently cannot keep up with the demand for our time.
Cristy, what made you get into teaching?
I always wanted to teach. My younger sister was my first ‘student’ and I was ‘teaching’ her from the time she was three. I opened our curtains in the basement one day so my sister could have a ‘filmstrip’ on the life of bees – the flowers outside the window were full of activity and information!
What is your teaching passion?
Peace Circles and Literacy!
Why do you write?
I have been writing since I was eight years old. It just took a long time to finally be published. I love reading and always wanted to be a writer.
Tell us about your journey in becoming a writer.
I have journals full of writing from the time when I was young until the present day. I have taken writing classes and attend writing conferences. I have also participated in writer’s groups over the past few years. Hosting a Literary Open Mic keeps me inspired to write. I also present workshops on writing, so it is currently, like a second career.
When did you create your first book and how has it brought out your voice?
The first book that was published happened six years ago and it helped me develop my voice as a writer of hi-lo YA fiction. Over the course of writing six novels, I now feel more confident in my ability to create characters and to keep readers engaged in an active and exciting plot.
Cristy, what other books have you written?
Benched, Living Rough, On Cue, Cutter Boy and Dead to Me are all available in stores and online. My latest novel, The Contest, will be released in the Fall of 2017. I am also set to pitch Orca with another idea for a novel.
Tell me why these books have been important to you and others.
Besides supporting literacy, these books have also been important to ELL learners as they grapple with a second language, but need books at their interest and age-level. These books also tackle issues that are real for youth, including ‘fitting in’, homelessness, self-harm, anger and balancing responsibility with pursuing one’s passion.
What “fruit” have you seen from practicing writing and Peace Circles?
It is wonderful to be invited to a class who read ‘Living Rough’ as a group and have them tell me they want to be in my next book. Youth only say things like that if they feel you have captured the essence of who they are as people. I also love hearing from readers who say my books are the first novels/chapter books they ever finished. Some readers have also commented that after reading Cutter Boy, they had a much better understanding of youth grappling with self-harm and mental health and are better prepared to help and support these young people.
For the Peace Circles, it is wonderful to see students understand their peers in a new way. It is great to see them work out a conflict as a class and begin to treat one another with respect and honesty. I often hear that a student will invite someone to participate in their group, that they would not normally have connected with prior to doing the Peace Circles.
Why do you think we – as people and/or teachers – need to change our practices? Or tweak them?
I think we do a magnificent job with all the pressures on us as teachers. But, I also think our day is so packed we often forget to stop and say hello, especially to our most challenging youth. We don’t always have the time to know our students outside of their struggles academically, or socially and emotionally. Yet, telling a youth we are glad to see them, even if they are acting out or causing harm to others with their words/actions and that we support them as they learn new ways of ‘being’ with others, can make all the difference! Too often, our most challenging youth only hear our voices when we are telling them to leave the class or go to the office. Using Peace Circles helps all youth learn new ways of communicating with each other and we focus on addressing the harm, rather than blaming or shaming a young person who is struggling with healthy relationships. If we believe a student can learn to read, we help them achieve that goal. If we believe a student can foster better relationships and learn to manage and control their anger, we help them to achieve that goal!
Tell me about your thoughts on the future for you. Where do you see your future “Cristy”.
To continue teaching and reaching young people through Peace Circles and books!