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Melbourne, VIC, Australia
2nd Grade Teacher at a school in Melbourne, Australia. My job: push kids to think. My passion: helping kids to tackle the life-long skill of searching for meaning, skills, answers and more questions.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Essential Agreement without a Teacher

I don't believe in negotiation of Essential Agreements - what some schools still call 'classroom rules'.
Not negotiation with a teacher, anyway.

On Friday afternoon, I left some large sheets of paper on the floor, along with some pens.
I explained to the yr 4 cherubs that we needed an Essential Agreement for our classroom.
They all knew what I was talking about.  Hands began to shoot up - ready to offer their first idea for my approval.
 Then... I stood and walked out of the room.

UTTER confusion struck the kids for about 15 seconds, until they realised that they were being left with the tasks of:  deciding who to work with, where to work, what to discuss, how long they'd have, what language they'd use, how they'd set out their thinking and so much more.

I came back in after the initial shock value 15 seconds.  I must have looked excited, because the kidlets were hard at it, in groups, all discussing what could go in their version.

These clever chickens asked to borrow last years' EA to make sure they 'got it all covered'.

I didn't offer one suggestion, or approve/disapprove of any idea.  I let them go for it for 20 minutes of fully-engaged discussion.  They were pumped.

Not even my class..... some of my girls defected to 4CS!  Ridiculous!
Soon enough, the kids got wind of the fact that 4CS were trying the same thing.  Some of my girls asked if they could go and have a look at what 4CS were coming up with.  I just shrugged and said, "It's your EA... You do what you think you should do." (or something that sounded far more professional and zen)

Some of my kids abandoned 4RB.  Some of Miss Scroope's kids abandoned her.  Suddenly, this became about a year 4 EA, rather than one for each class.  Great how the kids can take something like this and run with it!

Tomorrow, we bring these ideas together and discuss positive language.  Tomorrow, we may categorise some of the thinking.  Tomorrow, we play some more with the idea of the kids creating their Essential Agreement.  Tomorrow, I will see if each kid feels they 'own' this EA.

I wonder if I'll succumb to putting my thoughts in there, or if I'll let this be truly a student-led piece?

My thoughts are that we could keep it as a living document and allow ourselves to add to it if we find that something arises which we may have missed.  Could an EA be negotiated by the students throughout the school year?

Crazy talk has begun and it's only week 1.

I love school.


Mrs J said...

I think your kiddies have already gone way past it being 'essential' or even an 'agreement'!! More like a way of life for well being in Year 4. Love it, Blackie!

Andrew said...

That is so inspiring!
What a risk but such a good idea. Good on you for putting yourself out there for the sake of the kids.

Anonymous said...
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Louise Kemp said...

Hi Richard,
Thanks for sharing your ideas - reading your posts has really helped me to refine my plans for the beginning of my school year next week.
Louise Kemp.