Crafting the Spring 2020 Community Contract
As the Spring 2020 cohort progresses through Alzar School’s leadership curriculum, each student is challenged to find their own authentic voice. In designated leadership experiences, academic lessons, and informal conversations, students work to shape a communication style that is unique to them. We endeavor to help students understand that effective leaders communicate in a variety of ways, depending on circumstance, personal preference, the group’s makeup, amongst a host of other factors.
One of the earliest, and arguably most important, instances when students are challenged to draw upon their authentic voices is in the drafting of our Community Contract. For the first few weeks of each semester, Alzar School’s faculty and staff work hard to help students create a positive, inclusive, and solution-oriented community, where every member has the opportunity to thrive. Once this baseline has been established, faculty endeavor to create space for students to define the broader outlines of their community through the process of conceptualizing and writing a Community Contract.
For this activity, the school breaks into smaller groups (typically with five or six students in each pod) to ensure that each student’s voice is heard and valued. These smaller groups are first asked to reflect on why they chose to join Alzar School. Second, they are encouraged to highlight the community living norms they have most appreciated thus far in the semester. After a period of discussion, each group came together and created a set of shared values that they hoped would make it onto the final draft of the Community Contract. During this process, faculty encouraged students to use language and phrases in their authentic voices, sharing thoughts and sentiments that resonated with them.
Each group of students then elected leaders from their midst to represent their ideas within the larger group. These student representatives were charged with synthesizing the ideas of the various groups and, ultimately, creating a Community Contract that represented their shared values. While there was spirited discussion and debate between elected student leaders, ultimately they settled upon the following Community Contract:
Students chose the larger theme “Let it Roll” for the semester, identifying good times, work ethic, friendship, respect, humor, and inclusion as key values for their cohort to uphold. After the student representatives presented the Community Contract to the rest of the student group, it was unanimously approved and signed by all students.
Being on expedition for the past several days has provided students ample opportunities to live these values. After reflecting on the underlying values that bond their cohort together, they are ready to take on greater challenges and more ambitious adventures. As a school we will regularly refer back to the Community Contract in community meetings and more informally. I am sure that this Community Contract will serve as the foundation for a positive and productive semester for the Spring 2020 cohort.