For National Bullying Prevention Month we are focusing on the lessons in our Building Community theme. Today, we highlight our “Caring Being” lesson, a powerful experiential activity.
The Caring Being is all about creating a shared description for how a classroom community will exist. We love the distinction Josh Freedman, on the website Six Seconds, the Emotional Intelligence Network, draws between Rules and Agreements. He begins with such a good point, the question we ask says so much about what we want to achieve. “What rules should we have in our classroom?” leads to one set of responses like raise your hand to talk or follow directions or keep hands, feet and objects to yourself. The question, “what behaviors, feelings, put-ups would you like to have inside your Caring Being?” leads to such a different conversation. How we treat each other and how we want to treat each other puts the motivation and responsibility into the hands of our students.
Classroom Agreements Versus Classroom Rules
Instead of the teacher being responsible for carrying out the rules, the students make agreements about what it takes for a community, our classroom, to become a safer more caring place, and, by doing so, become a more productive living and learning environment. Classroom agreements also help frame what to do when “mistakes” are made. Adults and students can talk about mistakes and the motivation for change can be more intrinsic and less external. This is really preventive and empowering work for people of all ages and lays the groundwork for the Constitution of Caring we will write in a future lesson.
Classroom rules also tend to be framed in terms of what not to do, while agreements can be stated in more positive language. This distinction is important because it clarifies group expectations and is aspirational rather than punitive in focus. It creates later questions like, “How have you acted as a caring being today?” and descriptions like, “The Caring Beings of our classroom…” Let’s think of what it takes for us as teachers to be create the space and to sometimes rethink the way we frame questions and conversations for us to unleash the power of agreements.
Creating the spirit of The Caring Being in our classroom and going beyond it to a place where we resolve problems, learn together, take care of each other, take care of others, have lots of fun and feel like the classroom is our “home” in the deepest sense of that word, we think should be our goal.
Take a moment to remember that classroom where you felt that when you were a child. It didn’t always happen, but when it did, we knew it and we felt it. That’s who we want to be.
We’d love to see your pictures and videos of your Caring Beings and stories about how you got there! Post them to our Facebook page or send them (assuming you have parental permission!) to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.