When we think about building a community of care and support for all students, we begin with what adults should do. That’s the correct place to begin and it’s a showstopper if we don’t get it right.
There is, however, more work to be done in order to have a classroom where everyone feels cared for, respected, valued and supported. Every student’s experience in school is painted in some part by her/his experience with other students. How do we create a culture in which those experiences are positive?
Flip Flippen has developed a school-based approach to relationship building called Capturing Kid’s Hearts. Before his current work, he served sixteen years as a psychotherapist, working frequently with gang kids. He and his wife opened a residential center for at-risk youth in College Station, TX, and today he is a best-selling author with a consulting firm that supports business, government, sports teams, and schools.
The foundational piece of his current work is his theory of overcoming personal constraints to accelerate personal effectiveness. The school model of this theory is manifested in a portion of the Capturing Kid’s Hearts process, developing a social contract.
Here’s the short version: in any classroom, rules and regulations can only do so much. They require the greatest effort on the part of the teacher to react to negative behaviors or acknowledge (and sometimes reward) positive behaviors. A social contract, on the other hand, is an agreement, developed by all of the members of the class, about how everyone will be treated. Upon forming the contract, everyone has a responsibility and a hand in living up to the contract. It’s power is in its simplicity, and if done according to design and with consistency over time, it works.
Obviously, kindness and respect among students in the classroom requires a multi-tiered and ongoing approach. It’s not suggested that one thing alone can make all the difference, but one thing can begin the process that can lead to a kinder, more respectful classroom. When we are on that trajectory, the positive impact begins to build and it becomes easier to be kind and respectful and it literally transforms the learning experience.
For more information about Capturing Kid’s Hearts, please click here: http://flippengroup.com/education-solutions/
If you’d like to see a teacher’s introduction to the social contract, here’s one from an eighth-grade teacher is Lampassas, TX.