Getting to Consensus

Something I take for granted from my time that I worked at Apple was the ability to build consensus. It was in our culture to compromise and support each other as colleagues. When I look at my students, I realized that I challenge my students continuously to work together as it is an important part of the skills they develop over the year but this year I decided to stopped and looked at how I was encouraging them to build consensus in their decisions.

Last year, I didn’t give my students much of a choice but to work together. They had to come together and agree on many things but I never intentionally gave them activities to learn to make decisions together. This year, I decided to start my students off with building a number of team building activities.

To start the year, we started with out expectations of each other, ourselves and our teacher. We talked about similarities and I guided them towards an list of things that we felt were important. This then shaped our class agreement. Later in the week, I had the students in Phys Ed doing a number of cooperative games where having a leader wouldn’t necessarily be the best option. They quickly learned that if they shared the responsibility, they were more successful in their task. At the end of the I put the students into “Tribes”. They needed to come up with a tribe name and a cheer. The point of this was much more to see how they came up with their idea. It gave me a lot of insight into who lead the conversations and how they worked together. These tribes are being used for classroom management – both for classroom tasks and as a reward system. They work together to fill their jar with marbles by working hard and completing their tasks.

There will be many more activities, group work and challenges but it is awesome to see each other supporting each other in their learning and in their classroom.

What it means to be a part our learning community

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In January, I started to see some little issues emerge in the class. We had just started working on our own and instead of having 2 teachers and 44 students, we had 1 teacher and 20 students at the time. There was less supervision and more freedom. After hearing some name calling, we did some kindness activities to confront the things I heard one day. The students responded quite well to this. We each became uncomfortable to become more comfortable together. Together, the kids created a class agreement about what kind of reputation we wanted to make for ourselves and how we wanted our class to run now that we were working together on our own. The kids came up with two pages of what made us a learning community and how they thought about themselves as learners in our class. This agreement has also helped welcome 4 new students into our class this year so they had a sense of who we are and what we do in our class. I am so proud of the kids and ability to create this document. My favourite part is that they titled it “What it means to be a part of Learning Community 5A” instead of something like Class Agreement.