When we founded The Pearl, we started off with no rules. When we asked students if they thought we needed any, they said no. Within a few weeks, they decided that they wanted one. They said they worried about their peers if they weren’t in class. They created the rule that if a student was going to be absent they should message their teacher or a peer to let them know they were ok. Our first rule stemmed from how much our students care about each other!
Over the course of our first year, students found that they wanted to create a few more rules to make our classrooms more equitable. Below are the rights and responsibilities developed by our students with minimum input from our director specifically about the camera policy.
Student Rights and Responsibilities
Students have the right to express their ideas and feel heard, however, we believe that it’s our responsibility to speak up for ourselves and actually say what we think.
As students, we have decided that we think it’s fair for students to have their cameras on every class for the first 5 minutes (during check-ins)
We also think students should turn their cameras on when we are speaking, when we are presenting, and when others are presenting (we think it helps the student who is presenting to see other’s faces and see their reactions, so it doesn’t feel like they are presenting to nobody).
Everyone’s full attention should be on class when there is a group discussion happening or teacher is speaking (no games, videos etc.)
Exceptions to turning the camera on are allowed when communicated between student and teacher.
Take the time to let your teacher or one of your peers know if you’re not going to be in class. Your learning is your responsibility and it wastes other student’s class time if they’re waiting around for you.
If you are choosing not to take your learning seriously, that is your choice, but don’t take away the learning opportunity from your peers.
When students create their own rights and responsibilities in a democratic classroom, they are advocating for their needs. Additionally, they are creating a system they respect because their voices were part of the process.