Over the past few weeks in Opal 2 we have been working together as a community to write agreements. Writing agreements is a process where the children are invited to construct ideas of how they want to be together this year. At Opal School, we don't start with a list of rules or teacher made "agreements" that are enforced in the classroom. Instead, we work with the children to develop shared language and shared understanding around what this particular group of children might need to feel successful at school this year. We also recognize that those needs are not stagnant or stuck; instead those needs are as alive and growing as the children are.
Because we are listening and responding to needs that shift and change, the agreements we make as a community will shift and change just as the children in the classroom do. One of the most important parts of writing agreements together is that everyone in our community must come to consensus around these agreements. If we don't have consensus, if we don't have everyone on board, then we are not meeting the needs of everyone. If these agreements are to become a living document which the children hold each other accountable for, then we must be sure that everyone finds comfort within these agreements. We call them agreements because the children in the room, not some or most, but all of them, have agreed together to carry them out to the best of their ability.
This year we have begun by writing agreements about how we will feel and stay safe, how we want our classroom to be a space to do our best thinking and learning, and how we will share and take care of the materials we use each day. All of these ideas for agreements have grown out of what the children in Opal 2 said they needed to do their best work at school. On Friday, we sat down together to write one more agreement. This agreement had to do with friends. One student started us off by offering an idea:
Child 1: I think our agreement should be, "Have friends."
Child 2: How about,"Make friends."
Child 3: Make new friends but keep the old.
Child 2: Yeah, like the song!
Teacher: Do you agree? Are there other ideas?
Child 4: I disagree. I don't think you HAVE to be friends with everyone. You can't force people to be friends.
Child 5: Yeah, you can't say you have to be friends.
Teacher: Do you agree? Can you choose?
Child 3: No, we should all be friends.
Child 4: What if someone is mean to me? Do I have to be friends with them?
Child 3: Yes!
Child 5: I think that you have to be nice to everyone, but you don't have to be friends with everyone. You don't have to be best buds with every single person.
Teacher: Is being best buds the same as being friends?
Child 5: Kind of.
Child 1: No, it's different.
Child 6: You have to be nice and include everyone.
Child 4: You can't include everyone in every single thing you do.
Teacher: It sounds like we have some different ideas about what it means to be or to have a friend. It sounds like we have some more work to do before we write this agreement. As you go to Explore today, I want you to begin thinking about this question: What is a friend?
Child 7: Someone you care about
Teacher: You already have some ideas about that question. Let's keep researching and we'll come back to this agreement.
These ideas are complex and complicated. They are ideas worth giving our time to. When we come back to an idea we communicate that we might not have closure this week or next week or maybe even the week after that. But that’s ok. We’re building habits of mind. And isn’t that just what researchers do? They keep digging and investigating and wondering and sharing. We look forward to keeping you updated on our ongoing research.