What is a Social Contract or Classroom Contract?
“The Classroom Contract serves as a collaboratively created framework for behavior expectations in the classroom. Students and teacher work together to design an agreement for classroom norms, rules and consequences. To achieve ultimate student ownership, contracts should be developed and agreed upon by all class members. The Classroom Contract can be frequently amended as situations arise.” – The Teacher Tool Kit
The staff members at NSCA completed the Capturing Kids Hearts training where we all learned how to create and implement a social contract. When it came time to create the social contract, I followed several steps.
1. First, we talked about the importance of being kind, being safe, and being responsible.
I asked the students questions about their social norm preferences. Do you think it’s a good idea to be safe in the classroom? If friends are running around the classroom and knocking things over, do you think someone could get hurt? Does it feel hurtful when others call you names? Should we be kind? What should we do if friends break the social contract?
2. If the students agreed to those classroom norms, they signed the social contract.
They were given a chance to add to the contract as well. We all agreed that if a student is disrespectful, (this falls under being kind) then they are redirected to the social contract they agreed to and asked to give two compliments to the person on the tail end of their transgression.
For example, if a student calls a peer a name, they are asked if they were following the contract. Was it kind to call your peer that name? They are then asked to give the other student two “ups” or compliments. Of course, this is merely one example of the many possible scenarios.
3. Students are also allowed to hold their teacher in compliance of the social contract.
Recently, One student missed out on receiving a prize when the rest of the students at their table received a prize. This was completely unintentional on my part but she was very hurt by this. I was able to point out that even I must hold steady to the social contract. She felt that I had been unkind so I gave her two compliments and apologized for her missing the prize. At the end of class, she was able to pick out her earned prize. If she had not told me, I would have never known that she felt hurt and I would have never had the chance to remedy the situation.
The other day, I was teaching back to back classes and hadn’t had a chance to eat all day. I succumbed to the hunger and decided to eat a few bites of the lunch I missed while I was teaching. Of course, being in the middle of class, I was actively walking around the room so that I could monitor the student’s work and make sure they understood the artwork they were working on. Mrs. Bungay’s class was quick to point out I was not being safe because you should never eat and walk around due to the risk of choking. My lunch would have to wait because the students were correct. We had all agreed to be safe.
Written by Anna Santellana – New Summit’s K-3 Art Teacher