Home » On the importance of (not too many) agreements

On the importance of (not too many) agreements

When a new year starts at ALC-NYC, there is usually some measure of a cultural reset.  For us, a big part of this is emptying the “practicing” and “mastery” columns of our Community Mastery Board.  The CMB was a tool that Art, @tomis and I wanted to us to shift the “rulesy” culture that existed at Manhattan Free School and is common to other free and democratic schools.  It lightens the entire process around creating culture by focusing on the development of agreements, not rules, and allowing space to try things and discard them when they’re no longer necessary/effective.

I was chatting with a 5yr veteran student today, and he agreed with my theory that there is a direct correlation between an ALC that has a healthy culture and a relatively low # of agreements on the CMB.  I just ran down the hallway to check in with ours, and at the end of the second week of school, we have 4 agreements in the “practicing” column, and 2 in “testing” (where they’ll stay until next Friday when we check in on how they’re working, if we want to move them into practicing as is, or modify them and test for another week).

You see, this is the beauty of the tool.  It can be as full as it needs to be for the culture of the school to be serving everyone’s needs and staying true to the Agile Roots:

And yet, an empty CMB is a beautiful thing.  It demonstrates that the members of an ALC community have grasped (whether they actively studied them or not) and incorporated the Agile Roots and an ALC’s particular student agreements.  They’re running silently in the background of a healthy culture, much like an agreement that has made it’s way across the CMB into the “mastery” column.

As I checked in with kids today 1-on-1 to get their thoughts about what we actually need at the moment, the overwhelming consensus was that all we really need is an agreement about where and how we can eat food in the space.  If everything else is working (and they’re haven’t been any Culture Committee forms filed yet) and the smooth transition we’ve had to this year is any indication, I’d say the ALC-NYC culture is strong.  And when you consider that leaves all the time and space in a week for kids to focus on their intentions and aspirations, that’s pretty damn cool.


With love and agility,




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