When Does A Classroom Agreement, Become A Classroom Agreement?

I have been using the concept of the group collectively coming up with the behaviour and work standards they would like to live with for their time together as a team for over a decade. But on one fateful day in the winter of 2013 I was able to be a part of an experience that was a profound learning opportunity for me. Students have always enjoyed and valued being asked about the type of classroom they want to create. They have generated ideas, held dialogue on their and other’s ideas, compromised and come to an agreement in which they sign and live by. At that point the class moves forward and the journey begins.

This year we went through the same process I had for many years and came up with a wonderful classroom agreement that everyone was proud of. As always, about a month into the year I purposely broke the classroom agreement and needed to be held accountable for my actions just like everyone else who signed the agreement. That usually means that I have to go through  the problem solving model we use, take ownership for my choices and deal with the appropriate consequences for my actions. Needless to say, there is never a shortage of students who are willing to give up their free time to monitor their teacher as he sits in a detention. Thus the lesson passed on is that this agreement is truly for everyone in the room and not just for students. What made this year different was how my students reacted to it. They were completely silent and unsure of what to say or do when I put myself in the solution zone. A follow-up debrief revealed that teachers have always said that they were part of the agreement, but usually just said sorry when they did something wrong and moved on. They had never been held accountable as the students are. This experience provided me with me a lot to think about!

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The Author

Mike Beetham

I am currently entering my 32nd year of teaching and work with the Waterloo Region District School Board in an area behaviour class. I am actively involved with ETFO at both the local and provincial level. My passions are my family, teaching, the outdoors and personal fitness.

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