Students who feel ownership over their classroom and learning are students who feel autonomous, in control and happy. Yet, teachers need to ensure that any class has a series of social rules that are followed by all members. Afterall, the better the class behaves, the easier it is to both teach and to learn.
So, with the new school year just beginning, how can teachers ensure that effective class rules are set, AND that students develop a sense of pride and ownership over their social environment? After all, controlling rules can seem a contradiction to free thought
One solution that can be very effective is to encourage students to set their own social rules for the year.
This is done with the careful guidance of the teacher. Depending upon the age of students, teachers may need to be take a larger or lesser role. The trick is to enable the students to feel they have a voice in the class from day one.
Generally speaking, if you begin by asking students to brainstorm the rules needed for a happy classroom, they will come up with the same rules you would have set yourself. Everyone wants to feel safe both emotionally and physically.
Once rules have been decided upon they need formally writing down. Everyone then needs to sign a copy of the agreed rules as a valued member of ‘the team’.
This process offers an opportunity to set up a class that takes pride in itself, feels ownership over class structure and behavior and likes you for not being too controlling. In addition, you will have the joy of students who are more likely to comply with the class rules because they are rules they have personally chosen.
And, when rules do get broken, as they invariably will, you can discuss the fact that the students are breaking their own rules; not some other arbitrary rules that they may or may not agree with…
Young people are not mini-adults. Rather they are social and emotionally developing and as such, they are socially and emotionally vulnerable. Any opportunity to encourage social and emotional competency within an autonomous learning environment, can help to make a good start to the year ahead.