Contracting is an essential teaching strategy for aligning a group of students around shared values and practices. Elizabeth Carroll, New England Program Director at Facing History, recently wrote a piece on this crucial topic for the Massachusetts Civic Learning Coalition—a non-partisan coalition of nonprofits, educators, think tanks, universities, and other partners committed to preparing all students to become more civically aware and involved. Below is an excerpt from her piece on the value of contracting—as well as re-contracting—in January each year:
"January is a time for new beginnings. But as the pandemic rages on through an already-challenging school year, how can teachers introduce the energy of a fresh start? This January, try contracting, or re-contracting, in your classroom.
At Facing History & Ourselves, we often talk about the need to create a learning environment that is both safe and brave. Classrooms must be inclusive spaces where students can reflect, explore their identities, and connect who they are to what they are learning in a community that nurtures a sense of belonging. Only when that fundamental safety exists can we expect young people to engage courageously in discussions and learning that may push them out of their comfort zones.
Classrooms must be inclusive spaces where students can reflect, explore their identities, and connect who they are to what they are learning in a community that nurtures a sense of belonging.
Elizabeth Carroll, New England Program Director at Facing History
So, how can teachers foster this type of culture in their classrooms? We at Facing History always begin with the foundational strategy of contracting: discussing and agreeing upon shared expectations for how students and their teacher will interact with one another.
This process is often incorporated into the beginning of a new school year. Indeed, it is a central focus of our Back to School toolkit. But January is actually a wonderful time to revisit or even introduce contracting for the first time, if you have not already done so. Just as people set new intentions for 2022, you can ground the second half of the school year in a common understanding of how you will engage with one another in your classroom..."
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