Essential Agreements with Mission Focused

Classrooms around the globe are buzzing with “get to know you” games, discussions on wants and needs, sharing challenges and successes as well talks on what is important in a classroom setting for all learners. 

Through the last several years my understanding of the importance of an Essential Agreement has shifted immensely. I remember starting with a list of more than a dozen because the students thought everything was important and soon it ended up in the trash because I couldn’t remember it all. Then it shifted into being more Learner Profile focused but was still 10 items long and didn’t really stick. These models were difficult because they were not being “lived”.

Lightbulb Moment

Luckily, this year I was walking onto campus and on the wall was our 5 Core Values, Honesty, Responsibility, Respectfulness, Fairness and Compassion. At that moment, a light bulb went off. I had a provocation for the beginning of school to help focus our Essential Agreement while also making it meaningful for our context. 

The beginning of school came with smiles and excitement and continued with cheer as we finally were back in the music room making music. When the students noticed a rather large long banner of sorts on the board, “What is that Mr. Levi?” “Well let’s chat about it”, I said! 

Student Provocation

What does it mean to be honest in music? 

What does it mean to be responsible in music? 

What does it mean to be respectful in music? 

What does it mean to be fair in music? 

What does it mean to be compassionate in music?

These were the questions I asked and we did a quick, “Think, Pair, Share”. We came back to the class and shared our thoughts with each other on what each of these might look like. And wanting to hear depth instead of breadth, I asked all students grade 1, 2, and 3, to choose 1 core value that was MOST important to them.

They continued to draw a picture of what their chosen Core Value would look like. We shared with each other combining pictures as we went and we quickly drafted an Essential Agreement Quilt. 

The Starting of Our
Essential Agreement Quilt

Stitching it together

We know we will make mistakes and it is ok because there is a learning opportunity. We created an Essential Agreement drafted by 300 students with a Core Value focus, which at the end of the day, is our highest goal for our students. It helps them better understand how to be good people.  

How do you start Essential Agreements? Do you have great suggestions you want to share? Share below and please tag me on Twitter when drafting Essential Agreements as I do really love this activity and my students would love to see other classroom variations. 

Continue sharing your learning! 


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