What are Essential Agreements?

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If you have been following our blog, it must be pretty evident by now that B.D. Somani International School isn’t your average school. Our curriculum engages children and their families in meaningful learning experiences informed by a range of globally proven successful approaches to learning. This approach, both progressive and constructivist enables teachers to fulfil their desire to provide every student with relevant, challenging and engaging experiences aimed at preparing them for a rapidly changing world.
For example, there are very few lists of rules in school. There are specific rules for bus behaviour which are posted in the buses to make it easier for the conductors and didis to remind students when needed. Parents are provided with a list of acceptable healthy foods for school and bus snack boxes. Everything else, however, boils down to respect (of people, work, materials) and safety (physical, emotional, academic).
At the beginning of each year, the community in each classroom (students and teachers together) brainstorm what they feel are the essential agreements that each will follow for the community to work well together. Most of these agreements focus on respect and safety, but the children put them into their words.
We try to avoid negative statements such as “Don’t hit” and frame things positively such as “Keep your hands to yourself” or “Use walking legs” instead of “Don’t run”. When the agreements are posted, it makes it easier for both students and teachers to refer to them if something goes awry.
Also, as situations occur during the year, an additional agreement might be discussed and added, or some agreements might get clubbed into more broad statements. In upper Primary grades, teachers might add definitions of rules around academic honesty, especially plagiarism, as students engage in their own research.
Essential Agreements work because they are not imposed, and the children themselves decide what the agreements are. This implicitly sows the seeds for the democratic functioning and participation of students in the classroom. We often see students reminding each other of the Agreements rather than complaining to Teacher.
We encourage all of our parents to try out their own version of Essential Agreements at home. And we’d love to hear from you about your own experiences implementing them. Tell us in the comments.
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