By definition a contract implies that all parties have a responsibility to uphold the agreement. In our classroom, students are a vital part in creating the "rules" and establishing the code of conduct for their class. Essentially, classroom rules are made by students through the process of creating a classroom contract. The process begins with one statement:
The underlying themes that we will be navigating throughout this school year include anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, Zionism and the roots of modern Israel's political issues. Conversations around controversial and deeply emotional topics should be conducted in a brave - yet safe - space.
Classroom Contracts are a vital part of creating a brave space for students because it establishes the norms that will be practiced. More importantly, students will have the tool to reinforce these behaviors for themselves and their classmates by referring back to the deals they made in the contract. Upon their completion, every student signs the contract. When creating the course I thought hard on when to have students complete the process of contracting. While the first day of school may seem likely, they have not yet formed a bond as a class and I have not had the time yet to frame the course of study. Our classroom contract happens after our study of identity and membership, almost three weeks into our course. We begin the process of contracting by asking students to identify a time when they felt comfortable sharing their ideas and questions in class. What happened in those moments that helped them to feel comfortable? Students are then asked to identify when they have had ideas or questions but have not shared them Why not? What was happening in those moments to prevent them from sharing? We share-out these answers in our class conversation followed by brainstorming the norms we think would help our class create a safe, respectful, productive learning environment. Following this brainstorm session, we edit the list, revise, add, subtract, edit some more until we finally have our completed class contract. We each sign the contract. Every student gets a copy and we post it in the classroom for the remainder of the year.