Weekly Tribes 2017 – 2018: Agreements – start the year

This comes from Jamie, a Tribes teacher in Austin, Texas.

Even if the school year has already started for you, there is always time for reviewing and defining the agreements.   As you know, they need to be more than pretty posters on the walls.

When we introduce the idea of agreements, we have the students’ brainstorm ideas by answering the question, “What would make this classroom a safe and trusting environment?” Just prior to asking this question, I describe the brain research that supports the idea that true learning can only happen when we feel safe to take risks so we need our classroom to make everyone feel able to do so.

I collect all the students’ ideas on big butcher paper and then we start synthesizing the ideas down into some basic agreements that we can follow. Each year, we easily construct the idea of attentive listening, no put-downs, and mutual respect. I usually just add in the right to pass and explain why I think it is important.

This method makes it more authentic for my students and the agreements seem more powerful when they are in their own words.

I also do a whole ceremony where the students place their thumb print as their signature as they take an oath to follow our class agreements. I like to do the thumb prints on a big tree outline with our agreements written underneath.