For the last few years, in lieu of a set of classroom rules, my students have taken ‘the Pledge.’ ‘The Pledge’ works like this: in groups, the students brainstorm the qualities and traits that they think will be key to having a successful year. They use descriptive terms like ‘respectful’, ‘polite’, and ‘curious.’ We choose the dozen or so suggestions that are common among the groups. They then work in pairs to create an artistic representation of one of the terms. The terms are then posted in the class so we can refer to them when needed. When all is complete, the students stand and pledge to be “loyal, kind, responsible,”…and so on. It has proved a nice collaborative way to set a tone for the year…
I’ve always felt that the activity both afforded my students some agency and encouraged them to take responsibility for their own learning and actions. This year, however, I decided to add another aspect, one that I think was lacking. This year, in addition to the qualities that THEY needed to display, I asked my students to record a second list. This list would be the qualities they needed from ME to help them have a successful year.
Here are their responses:
I was really pleased with how seriously and enthusiastically they built these lists. And they definitely left me with some take-aways:
1. Patient – either first or second on every list, this was clearly the quality that my students value above all others. And why not. When they fail, make mistakes, or poor decisions, I can respond with angry disappointment or calm encouragement. Patience from me will embolden them to own up to their errors and try to improve.
2. Passionate, Positive. Courageous, Enthusiastic, Optimistic – clearly these students are looking for an element of dynamism. They will not be content with a reserved or disinterested teacher. They are hoping to see me visibly excited about their learning.
In the spirit of agency, and increasingly trying to remove myself from the central role in the classroom, I will be continuing to offer my students as much choice, responsibility, and agency as I can.
And in the spirit of the moment:
I pledge to be…patient, understanding, caring, fair, courageous, enthusiastic, respectful, caring, assertive, kind, funny, encouraging, optimistic, honest, reliable, loyal, and passionate in all that I do at school this year.