Eighth-grade students Eighth-grade students brainstorm ideas for their constitution: laws that create a climate of kindness at their school. (Kerry Sherck)

The Kindest School on Earth!

One school’s plan for a more civilized classroom

By Adele Oliviera
<p>Each student works hard to decorate his or her copy of the constitution. Afterward, every copy is signed by the entire grade. (Kerry Sherck)</p>

Each student works hard to decorate his or her copy of the constitution. Afterward, every copy is signed by the entire grade. (Kerry Sherck)

What if you went to a school where you wrote the rules? These eighth-graders at the Santa Fe School for the Arts and Sciences in New Mexico do exactly that. Every year they create their own constitution—a handful of schoolwide laws about more than just chewing gum. These rules are about how to be a better person.

“Writing the constitution helps create a sense of responsibility,” says 12-year-old Vincent, one of this year’s lawmakers. The debates can go on for days or even weeks until everyone agrees on an idea—the vote must be unanimous. Even the exact wording becomes crucial.

“Accepting other ideas and keeping an open mind are the same thing,” says eighth-grader Lila.

“But accepting isn’t the same as listening,” another student, Bella, points out. “You can still disagree.”

“They’re two different ideas, but they’re both important,” offers Tiana, another lawmaker.

The students all agree that their goal is to make their school a safer and more comfortable place to learn. Copies of the constitution line the walls of the school, so their promise to each other is never out of sight.

These students have the power to turn their school into a sanctuary, and they gladly accept the challenge. “If there’s a law that we regret later,” says Vincent, “we only have ourselves to blame.”

This article appeared in the February 2013 issue of Choices. For more from Choices, click here.

 

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