Welcome back to school! I hope everyone had a restful and joyful summer. It’s amazing how quickly summer seem to fly by these days.
I love the first day of school. I always have. It’s such an exciting time. We get to see old friends again. And of course, there is the mix of anxious and excitement about what this year will bring for us. What new friends will I make? Who will my teacher be? What are we going to do in drama class this year? The wonders are endless.
It’s great to watch students run to hug each other when they first spot each other, and how, even our middle school students, want to say hi, hug or shake hands with their teachers. We started our first day with an all-school assembly. The highlight for me was listening to our two student addresses. Both Mairi (7th grade) and Owen (8th grade) shared a warm welcome to our returning and new community members. They also gave all of us a challenge. They challenged the returning students to share the same warm aloha with new students that they once received. They asked all of us, new and returning, to introduce ourselves to someone we didn’t recognize. They asked us to make sure everyone had someone to sit with at lunch and someone to play with at recess. It’s compassionate student leadership like this that makes Assets such a special place.
If you read my blog with any regularity, you’ll notice how often I use the word “community.” It’s so vital to our work here at Assets, and we spend a meaningful portion of our first weeks establishing community in our classrooms. One way we do this is by having each students develop their hopes and dreams for this school year. In the middle school, we call these declarations. The hopes and dreams are then shared with the class and often put on display in the room. What better way to build relationships than to know the hopes and dreams of your peers and colleagues. By sharing your hopes, and having them affirmed and honored by others, we build trust.
When this goal-making process is complete, students start to co-construct classroom rules. These are often called class contracts or social contracts. Many schools start Day 1 going over a set of classroom rules. We don’t. Certainly we have school rules but we wait to establish classroom rules. Why? Because rules shouldn’t be arbitrary. They should be purposeful. And there is no greater purpose for a rule than for it to promote our collective hopes and dreams. Once we’ve shared our hopes and dreams, we ask each other to develop rules that honor our aspirations. Aspirations guide the rules. When it’s finalized, the class contract should contain expectations that allow us to access and achieve our declarations for this year. By letting the students co-construct the rules, they gain ownership of them. It’s also important to note that the class contract is a living document that we’ll occasionally amend over the course of the year depending on how well it is promoting our goals.
Please enjoy taking a look at students developing their hopes and dreams and class contracts.