October is the month when we create the elementary school faculty and classroom charters. Charters are part of the RULER Approach, a social-emotional curriculum developed by Yale University. A charter is a “mission statement,” created by teachers and students, that establishes the kind of learning environment we want to cultivate and maintain.
All of us have spent the opening weeks of school generating lists of words that describe how we want to feel in school each day. The faculty agree that we want to feel unified, respected, inspired, supported and prepared. Some of these words were generated by students as well but they also wanted to feel other things at school, including (but not limited to) happy, proud, excited, confident, curious, included, safe and welcomed.
In classrooms, after deciding on the words that would make up their charter, each class discussed how to create an environment in which all students could feel the way they had agreed upon in the charter. Each person came up with a list of specific behaviors, such as “be open to feedback,” “try my best,” “encourage each other,” “use kind words,” “greet each other in a personal way,” and “listen to each other.” We all know that even the best of intentions are not so easy to carry out. That’s why the last section of every charter reads something like, “We will prevent and manage conflict by…”
The faculty all said we wanted to feel inspired this school year but did not realize how quickly that would happen. It has been truly inspiring to hear the students talk about how they want to feel and we have been impressed by the seriousness they brought to the process. All the charters are living documents. This means that over the course of the school year they will be consistently referred to and can change if the creators of that charter feel it is missing something or is no longer an accurate representation of the group. For more inspiration, ask your children for the ideas they came up with in their classes.