As a future English teacher, my job is to make sure my classroom is safe, fun, orderly, and effective. One of the most basic ways I can do this is through a Social Contract.
I want to use a Social Contract in my classroom because it not only engages all the students, but holds them accountable for their behavior and self-control in the classroom. My plan for the first days of class will be to establish this Social Contract in conjunction with the opinions of my students. What this means, is that I will create an outline for the year that is a combination of both student ideas as well as my rules.
I will start this conversation out with a “T” Chart to apply a visual diagram to the creation of rules. The left side of the chart will say “Teacher Expectations” and the right side will say “Student Expectations;” I will write this on the board. I will begin by asking my students how we will have an effective school year. The first topic will be in regards to respect, because I believe that respect is the most basic and essential component to an effective learning environment.
One thing that I’ve noticed while observing for clinicals, is that students who are unclear of the expectations aren’t going to respect the teacher or his/her authority. Only when the teacher establishes the rules in a clear and efficient manner do the students know what is expected in the classroom. Because of this, I will start off my class discussion by talking about respect and what that means. Then I will begin to fill out the “T” chart. For example, under the “Teacher Expectations” I will put something along the lines of “listen to my students and evaluate their performance fairly.” For the “Student Expectations” category, I will say something similar to “be quiet when other students are talking, listen to the teacher and other students, and be on time and prepared for class.” These are basic guidelines that will create a safe and healthy environment. By me writing and presenting these ideas, I am having the final say, but I will also be open to student ideas and additions.
After talking about respect, I will lay out the ‘bottom line’ expectations for the school year; for example, the rules established in the school or policies regarding cheating, tardiness, and bullying. If I am clear in explaining these rules, then students will know the consequences for inappropriate behaviors. After the non-negotiable rules, I will ask for student input on other issues; this way they can have a say in the classroom, it will be a discussion instead of a lecture, and the students will be held accountable for the decisions that we jointly make.
Students will know what the rules and expectations are because I will write them on the “T” chart on the board, as well as type them out on the computer and post them online. This way, the students will have talked about them with me, will have given their opinions, and will also have constant access to them online if an issue arises.
Some other items I will make sure to address in the Social Contract conversation are ways that students will learn best, or ways that the school days will be productive. I can ask students about past classroom experiences to get their ideas on procedures for this school year. One thing we can address is late work and absent procedures, for example, students can voice what they believe about this issue, for example, they might say something like there shouldn’t be a penalty for late work if a student is absent—I will discuss this with them, to allow for their opinions, but I will ultimately decide that there will be a penalty because the homework will be posted both online and in advance. This way there is a fair discussion, but as a teacher, I have the final say.
Overall, the Social Contract will have rules and procedures that allow for safety and productivity in the classroom. The students and I both will come up with things we agree upon, roles, and actions that will be taken. This will create dynamic, effective, and positive classroom environment.