Thursday, September 6, 2018

We Begin, Again

It is the start of a new school year. An opportunity to begin, again. This is always an exciting time of year for us, the teachers in Forest Class. Our unique family grouping in the Lower School provides us with the benefit of having students for two consecutive years, third and fourth. This means we have students who remember and recall classroom traditions and experiences from the previous year, and who rise to be the leaders of those traditions and experiences. While each year carries with it the familiarity and traditions of the previous year, each year a different classroom community comes together. We like to remind our students that each year is a new Forest Class. Everyone is older than they were the previous year, some students are rising second years, and some are new to the school. The sum of all of us this year creates something new than we had last year.

One of the Quaker tenants that comes to mind during the first couple weeks of school, when community building is in full swing, is the one about the truth being continually revealed. Each year we work with our students to reveal the type of classroom community they desire and need that year. As a class, we work to create a class contract, a commitment we will make to each other throughout the school year.

This year's group of Forest kids brought surge of energy and creativity to this process. Students reflected on the following queries individually, and then we came together to discuss them as a class.

  • What will you need in order to do your best this year? 
  • What should kids in our class be doing to make sure our class runs as smooth as possible? 
  • What will Jenni, Lynn, and Michael need to do this year to help you do your best? 
  • What do you hope to learn this year? 
These posters remained on our walls the first couple weeks, as we revisited our students' responses to these important questions. The students responses were genuine and authentic, and carried the weight of their intentions for the year. There were students who wanted to learn long division and multiplication, and students who wanted to master a cartwheel. Several students said they needed quiet space to think and create, and peers and teachers who listened. 

After reflecting on these queries, we had a class discussion about the classroom we would like. What does the classroom look, sound, and feel like?

The next step was to gather phrases and sentence students, and then putting them together into a contract we edited together as a class. The final contract for the 2018-2019 Forest Class is now signed and displayed as a reminder for us to revisit throughout the year. 

Forest Class Contract 2018 - 2019
      We want to learn and grow this year. We want to become better readers, writers, mathematicians, scientists, researchers, musicians, athletes, and friends.
      We, Forest Class, will work together to create a classroom community where everyone feels welcomed, included, safe, and encouraged to be their best and do their best. 
      We will create this classroom community by being kind and doing our best to bring a positive attitude to school each day. We will work and play together, being sensitive to the needs of others. When someone is having trouble, we will look for ways to help. No matter if we win or lose in a game, we will remember to be encouraging to everyone and have a good time. When someone is speaking we will pay attention, and listen to their words. While having fun, we will look out for each one another’s safety. When moving through the classroom, we will move calmly and thoughtfully, with walking feet. 
      We know we will all make mistakes and conflict will happen. When we make a mistake or are in a conflict we will remember that problems have solutions and are opportunities in which to learn and grow. We will determine the size of the problem, and use our minds to make a choice to arrive at a peaceful solution. We will seek to remain flexible, forgive and forget, and make space for people to move on from a disagreement or problem.  When a problem is too big for us to solve on our own, we will request a conference with a teacher. We will speak to one another with thoughtful and kind words, and listen with curiosity to the other person’s point of view. 
      We, Forest Class, sign this contract in agreement to work together toward our goals.