When they returned to campus after so many months of distance learning, our high school class started the first day with a discussion about what kind of classroom climate they wanted to create, including how to handle disagreements, disrespectful behavior, etc. One student suggested they create a list of core values for the class to agree upon. This is the “Core Values List” they came up with and agreed to follow as a community:
- Comfort and Safety
- Be mindful of differences
- Remain cordial (Coexist)
- Peaceful communications
- Be responsible for your actions
After establishing and discussing the classroom’s core values, their teacher, Ms. Teagan, asked, “How are we going to monitor/regulate everyone’s ability to act within these core values?” Another student quickly suggested a presidency. The class agreed. Under this new system, interested students would give speeches and the class would vote. The elected President and Vice President would serve a 4-week term with a very important job: to set the tone for the classroom culture, lead by example, be the point of contact if any issues arose, and offer help to other students if they fell behind.
Our high school classroom is now in its second term, giving other students the chance to write a speech, practice their leadership skills and, hopefully, learn from the presidents who served before them. This system has created structure in the classroom and is empowering our students as they see themselves in new roles and hold each other – and themselves – accountable for creating the community they want to exist in. It has also given students a chance to show courage, stand up as leaders and learn to win – and lose – graciously.
Ms. Teagan has seen great results from this student-led initiative so far, “I believe they engage and participate because it is a system that they created. On that first day, they had full control over how we decided to set up our classroom culture so they created something they knew they’d be willing to be involved in. They are able to have autonomy while still maintaining a strong and healthy classroom culture.”
We are really proud of our high school class for taking the initiative in creating a community that works for everyone and in holding each other accountable to follow through with it. We hope they take these important leadership skills and their new sense of confidence out into the real world with them – we know they can continue to do great things outside Aseltine’s walls!
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