One of my favorite components of the Middle School are Essential Agreements. Essential Agreements are a powerful way of bringing out the best in both individuals, small groups, year levels and entire schools. Essentially they are a collection of positively framed statements devised by those who will be directly affected by them. Each class or grade begins the year by writing their own class Essential Agreement.
Essential Agreements need to be:
* Few in number
* Written by all group members
* Applicable to a broad range of situations
* Understood by all group members
* Agreed on by all group members
* Positively framed (no "can't' or 'don't or 'shouldn't)
An easy way to get clear, concise and powerful Essential Agreements is to begin by imagining the ideal learning space, or on a personal level, how do you learn best or be your best? What would the learning space look like? What would happen here? What do the students do? How do they act? How do they interact with each other? How do they interact with the teacher? Using this initial discussion as a basis, it is an easy step to continue the conversation towards personal actions. How can we ensure the learning space is the best it can be? What can we agree on to bring out our best? What can we aspire to achieve?
The power of Essential Agreements is that they are not prescribed by the teacher; the students have agreed to abide by this group devised document. Many times in my career when students have let themselves down, or things are going quite right in the classroom, referring back to the essential agreement instantly focuses the students, quickly giving them space to reflect on their actions and how they can improve, aspiring to do better. In addition, students can work towards specific sections of the essential agreement they are aware they need to work on; commitment to learning, clear communication, enthusiastic participation, taking personal learning risks etc.