A School Bill of Rights…and how to get started

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highlander school rocking chair circle

Taken from a letter from me to an educator in Chile who is going to be courageous and let the students have a voice and run things

“….Well it can be complicated, but as a start; after a few weeks of school I would go around with a clipboard and approach small groups of kids and ask them what people have the right to do at school, and what maybe they ought to get to do….and I would  write down what kids said.

At circle we would talk about what was talked about in smaller groups and about fairness, safety and respect for everyone. We looked at and talked about the US bill of rights and how it lists the “Yeses”..and that we could make one for the class so that when people visit us they would know that people don’t get punished or yelled at by teachers and that we solve problems together if something happens.

Kids really liked the idea of a list of things you have a right to do. We would keep a working draft and continue small and large group discussions. Kids might decide to poll the community themselves, by interviewing classmates and recording responses on clipboards.

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For the one I sent you, a few upper graders were reading ours and told  me they wished they had one in the upper grades..that it could have really helped with some problems. So we started meeting and reviewed several versions of our document and starting figuring out what articles worked for all ages (adults too) and why. The discussions were rich. The kids decided by a show of hands that there was general consensus for the current document. It was ratified by general consensus, and was meant to be a whole school guide.

General consensus does not mean that everyone votes yes..or that everyone loves and agrees with every aspect of the document-but that people feel they can strive to live by the expressed principles. They understand that the process of problem solving and examining issues in fair and just ways is the primary and most important outcome of living with the document, and that their ideas will be given fair consideration. It says so in the articles.

Adults in the community are expected to live by the bill of rights as well.

The BOR is NOT a list of rules  that people win or lose by, or that we point to for compliance-but guidelines of respect and inclusion that we strive to live by. It is a living, breathing document that invites discussion and diverse interpretations. It is a socio-cognitive methodology that guides practice in the rigors of problem solving, conflict resolution, and critical thinking…..

Concept of other, compassion and empathy are nurtured and developed as problems are engaged by the group.

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This document was never fully accepted by the entire  school community, though bits and pieces percolated into some classrooms and homes……my class was organized this way for a couple of decades. Intrinsic learning and self regulation are the overarching goals of my methodology.

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All School Bill of Rights

We are like a family. We are a school family. It is our job to take care of each other even when it is hard to do.

1.  ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE INCLUDED.

2.  ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO LEARN.

3.  ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO LEARN HOW TO SOLVE PROBLEMS.

4.  ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO LEARN IN THEIR OWN WAY.

5.  ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO LEARN HOW TO RESPECT OTHERS.

6.  ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE RESPECTED.

7.  ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAKE MISTAKES.

8.  ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO ASK QUESTIONS.

9.  ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXPRESS THEIR IDEAS.

10. ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAKE FRIENDS.

11. ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO THEIR BODY SPACE AND THINKING SPACE.

12. ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO GIVE AND GET COMFORT.

13. ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO FEEL THEIR FEELINGS.

14. ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO TIME ; TIME TO COOL DOWN AND PROCESS THEIR   FEELINGS OR THOUGHTS.

15. ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE WHO THEY ARE.

16. ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO STAND UP FOR THEMSELVES AND FOR OTHERS.

17. ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO FORGIVE.

18. ALL PEOPLE HAVE THE RIGHT TO SPEAK DIVERSE HOME LANGUAGES.

Amendments or revisions can be presented for consideration at community meetings after the democratic process of petition has been satisfied.

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About cthebean

Educator, musician, social justice activist...and now a blogger. Children deserve unflinching support from adults.....they deserve nothing less. All kids . Everybody's kids. Everywhere.
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One Response to A School Bill of Rights…and how to get started

  1. cthebean says:

    Reblogged this on and commented:

    I like to send this around occasionally to remind myself how wonderful school can be if we trust and respect the children….and also to remind myself that this idea can always be thought about and transformed in a variety of ways.

    Like

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