Agreements are like guidelines that help to set the intention for the relational spaces in the classroom or team. Creating class agreements opens up the learning space associated with the experience of learning together. Agreements are an important part of creating a container for learning to achieve learning, growth, and development goals such as those in the skills of distinction:
2. Thinking differently
Agreements also acknowledge creating an intentional relational space that all participants have an individual and collective responsibility to nurture a space that tilts toward wellbeing for everyone. Agreements help to acknowledge that our lives are complex and that each of us brings different challenges and strengths to the space and that establishing an intentional space.
Agreement building process and ideas
Look at the GroupWorks Guidebook for additional activities. Here are two suggestions for classes or teams:
Activity 1: Look at the cards as a class/community – choose three cards that speak to what you need and value in your learning community – how we agree to work together. Share with another person why this is important for you. What patterns do you see emerging in your group? Check-in with your list from time to time in pairs or triads. At the end of each check-in each person shares one take away action - what will you do in the next week to strengthen and contribute to the class?
Activity 2: Look at the cards as a class/community. Look at the different questions and each person selects 2-3 cards to represent what is important for them. Compile the cards selected and sort. When a disagreement etc emerges have your selected cards present to help guide the group through the emergent opportunity. Follow up to reflect on the process - do we need to add anything to this process? What worked what can we revisit?
How do the cards answer these questions:
Check here for other ways to use GroupWorks: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKAxm8xL3nQIV_NZsddiJeA
1. Listen actively. Respect others when they are talking.
2. Speak from your own experience instead of generalizing (“I” instead of “they,” “we,” and “you”).
3. Do not be afraid to respectfully challenge one another by asking questions, but refrain from personal attacks—focus on ideas.
4. Participate to the fullest of your ability. Community growth depends on the inclusion of every individual voice. For White participants and others with privilege, check-in with yourself to make sure your silence is not perpetuating the status quo.
5. Instead of invalidating somebody else’s story with your own spin on their experience, share your own story and experience.
6. The goal is not to agree—it is to gain a deeper understanding.
7. Be conscious of body language and nonverbal responses. They can be as disrespectful as words. The Racial Healing Handbook Reading Group Guide
8. Share the air. Notice if your voice is dominating the space, if so, step back, allow other voices, particularly those from more marginalized communities to speak.
9. Challenge yourself by choice. If there are topics that are triggering that come up, that you would like more privacy with, or that you just aren’t sure about, be sure to “pass” when it’s your turn to share. Growth and resilience come from being challenged to grow, but you don’t want to be in the “danger zone” of oversharing and going beyond your own personal boundaries.
Excerpted and slightly adapted from: http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/activities/groundrules.html.
Intentions are different than goal setting. SMART goals for example are about achieving a particular outcome and setting up the parameters to get there. An example goal might be getting a paper published, revising my curriculum, or increasing my final grade by 10%.
An intention is about doing something "on purpose" and about becoming more aware of our thought and behaviour patterns. Intentions are about awareness rather than achievement. In a relational space being aware of what is in the space supports learning in a more holistic way and transformative way: head - heart - hands - spirit by deepening awareness of self and the space between us.
Intentions are about
Personal examples: https://newayscenter.com/2017/12/19/powerful-intentions-authentic-best/
You can also use the GroupWorks Intention Card to set intentions as a group: https://groupworksdeck.org/patterns/Setting_Intention
WELCOMING RITUAL (1-9 minutes) Activities for Inclusion
Adults bring their experience, allow them to use it. Ritual openings establish safety and predictability, support contribution by all voices, set norms for respectful listening, and allow people to connect with one another creating a sense of belonging. To be successful they must be: carefully chosen, connected to the work of the day, engagingly facilitated, and thoughtfully debriefed.
Community Building: Using an open ended question (e.g., from the Circle a Day cards), build community in a quick and lively way. Each participant shares their response with a partner. After sharing, ask for 2-3 comments from the whole group.
CheckIn: Begin with a sentence starter:
More presencing techniques
The opening ritual can help bring learners/participants' full attention to the class/meeting space. Another term for this is presencing. Presencing helps participants develop a habit of connecting head - heart - body - spirit. This might feel unfamiliar for some people so start slowly and allow people to recognize the positive impacts over time. This kind of activity can help support wellbeing and can feel really good in our busy lives where there is so much competition for our attention.
Stillness Activity - 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Feel free to adjust as appropriate. For example, for a deaf participant instead of 4 things you hear use 4 things you are noticing in your body.
5 things you see
4 things you hear
3 things you feel touching you or you are touching
2 things you smell
1 thing you are grateful for
Adults want to make their own meaning and have fun. Engaging practices are brain-compatible strategies that can foster: relationships, cultural humility and responsiveness, empowerment, and collaboration. They intentionally build adult SEL skills. These practices can also be opportunities for brain breaks that provide a space for integrating new information into longterm memory. (Otherwise, it is soon forgotten.)
Integrate moments of stillness as a regular practice to provide time for people to think and integrate new information and allow new insights to surface. In some cultures, silence is a comfortable and welcome component of any conversation space. In others, silence is uncomfortable and participants will jump in quickly to fill any silence. Notice how comfortable you are with silence. Practice taking time for stillness and start to see what happens!
Tuesdays Terrific Teaching Tips is a great place to look for engagement ideas.
OPTIMISTIC CLOSURE (3-5 minutes) Reflections and Looking Forward
Adult learning occurs when behavior changes. End each meeting or professional learning by having participants reflect on, then name something that helps them leave on an optimistic note. This provides positive closure, reinforces the topic, and creates momentum towards taking action.
EXAMPLES OF REFLECTIVE QUESTIONS:
These can be done in a circle format with everyone on the call or in the space speaking into the circle, by typing into the chat or adding to a notebook page dedicated to reflections.