Are there any rules?

How do we intentionally create community? What are the tools we use?

I am going to discuss four tools that together, comprise our guides for being in community together:  Agreements, the Check In/Change Up Meeting, the Community Mastery Board, and Conflict Resolution Process.

AGREEMENTS

There is not a higher authority that hands down rules at this school.  We live by a set of community agreements, that the community itself has the power to change when it sees fit.  When I say agreement here and in the remainder of this post, I mean an agreement that the community has made together to guide our actions and behavior in a specific way to allow us to all be in the same space peacefully and beneficially.

Right now, there are six base agreements at our school.  These are agreements the entire community agrees to in order to join, and while that gives them a certain constitutional power, even these are subject to change by the community.  Those six agreements are:

  • Be kind to yourself, and to each other.
  • Use community resources mindfully.
  • Clean up.
  • Participate in meetings.
  • Honor agreements.
  • Share learning.

In addition, the community can create new agreements as it sees fit.  This is done principally at a weekly meeting:

CHECK IN / CHANGE UP MEETING

Once a week, the entire school community of students and facilitators gather to Check In about how things are going.  At this meeting, any community member can raise an Awareness.  An awareness is anything that you notice that you think requires the attention of the community.  Maybe it is something like “When everybody is playing loudly in the big room, it’s hard for me to read.”  Some awarenesses don’t require anything more than to be heard.  Some awarenesses require further attention or action, and will become part of the Change Up meeting.

At the Change Up part of the meeting, the community addresses some awarenesses by making an agreement to try something for a week.  “From 10-11 daily, we agree to play quietly in the big room so people can focus.”  This agreement goes onto the

COMMUNITY MASTERY BOARD

The Community Mastery Board, or CMB, is a tool for capturing and tracking community agreements.  A CMB is a whiteboard with a number of stickies on it.  It has four columns:

  • Awareness
  • Testing
  • Practicing
  • Mastered

Over the week, whenever anyone has an awareness, they can write it down and put it on the CMB in the Awareness column.  This forms the agenda for the Check In part of the meeting.  During the Change Up part of the meeting, some awarenesses are addressed with community agreements, and are placed in the testing column, where it will sit for a week, and be evaluated at the next Change Up meeting.  If the agreement needs to be adjusted, changes can be made and tested for another week, or perhaps the agreement isn’t necessary and gets thrown out.  If the agreement is working for everyone, it gets moved into practicing.  Agreements in practicing are followed by the community, until it is so second nature to the community, and has become part of the regular culture, that it is moved into the mastery column.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION PROCESS

When everyone honors the community agreements, for the most part the community can work together peacefully.  Sometimes, conflicts will still arise.  We provide everyone in the community with a process they can use to help address these conflicts.

The first step is to stop and breathe, to help notice how you are feeling, and decide what, if anything, you want to do about it.

The second step is to talk to the person with whom you are having the conflict and try to work it out.

The third step is to get help.  Ask someone else in the community to support a discussion about the conflict.

If those steps do not resolve the conflict, you can file a request to the Culture Committee.  This a group of people in the school who have agreed to make themselves available to help resolve conflicts within the community, made up of facilitators and students.  Culture Committee has some authority to require action from community members to keep the space safe and compatible with learning in community.  The goal is to seek resolution to the conflict by having all parties express the conflict and what they need to move forward.

These tools create the structure of the community we build intentionally to support learning together.

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