Writing a Community Contract Built on Students' Hopes and Dreams
Excerpted from our newsletter: Carroll Connection, Winter 2017. In this edition, we highlighted 4 key belief statements that came from our all-staff meeting held prior to the 2016-17 school year. Read the full edition.
BELIEF STATEMENT #1: We believe that our commitment to a child’s healthy social and emotional well-being goes hand-in-hand with academic success. We strive to create an environment where students feel safe, valued, connected, and secure, empowering them to take risks and become confident independent members of our community. Read our belief statements.
In the Lower School, modeling the Responsive Classroom approach, teachers and students start each year in classrooms brainstorming their hopes and dreams and how they want to describe their classroom expectations/rules for the year. Once the classroom goals and rules were established, it was time to root those ideas for shaping our Lower School Community Contract.
To consolidate the classroom rules into a few schoolwide expectations that would become the Community Contract, six children were chosen from grades 3-5 as “Grade Delegates.” Julia, Max, Zach, Sadie, Christi, and Virginia all gathered with me for a series of working lunch meetings. We discussed. We brainstormed. We debated. We laughed.
With enthusiasm and ownership, our “delegates” brought forth creative ideas for how the school community should treat our property and each other, including how we treat ourselves. They referenced our ERIK concepts - empathy, respect, inclusion, kindness - as they described their reflective ideas, such as: be a good friend; compliment others; respective others and their belongings; include others.
Together, they reviewed the ideas and chose the final four statements that best represented and showcased their thinking. I was both impressed by their collaborative approach and proud of the process that produced our 2016-2017 Community Contract:
- Believe in yourself
- Walk in other people’s shoes
- Use our school equipment properly
- Have fun
Next, we created our Community Contract Poster that our delegates confidently presented at an all-school assembly. The final step was to have each child and adult in our community sign the contract and hang it the front lobby to serve as the guiding principles for the school year.
Creating the Lower School Community Contract was a powerful experience for our community and me. Not only did it provide an opportunity for student engagement and ownership for how we all agree to be good community citizens but it also encourages students to hold each other accountable for these agreements. And, best of all, it was fun (check mark for rule #4)!