By: Ali Flinchum, Prenda Students Team

One of the things I love most about the Prenda Learning Experience is how caring, nurturing relationships are prioritized throughout learning, across microschools, states, and beyond.

It is our ethos here at Prenda, and we have the science to back it up! You see, when children do not feel safe, or if their basic needs are not met, their reptilian brains are triggered. It is next to impossible to focus on academic growth when you are in flight or fright mode.

At Prenda, we want all students to feel safe and cared for. We know that empowered learning can only take place after that is accomplished.

As a Guide, you have such a powerful role in each student’s life. To ensure that children’s brains are primed for learning, caring relationships and positive microschool routines are the best prevention of any discipline issues or problems that could disrupt your learning community.  

Routines are part of the flow of the school day. When executing an established routine, students know what, when, and how to do something. They are autonomous and principled in their conduct and Guides rarely have to remind students what to do.

Does it sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not! You can have amazing routines that empower students, day in and day out! If you’re still scratching your head and wondering how to implement these ideas, keep reading. We’ve got three strategies to help you start your journey!

Strategy 1: Think it through. I remember the first big trip I went on. I spent countless hours talking to myself, saying things like, “First I’m going to check my luggage, then I’m going through security, and then I’m going to get a coffee and sit and people-watch for a bit before getting on my plane.” When it was time to travel, my thoughts became a reality. This same thought process applies to your students.

Before you start the school year, or whenever you start to feel like the vibe in your microschool is off, take some time and think through each moment of your learning schedule. Ask yourself, how do I want students to act without asking them to do so?

Don’t take the small things for granted—think through how you want students to retrieve computers, how students should leave for the restroom etc. Write down your thoughts. Know your vision. You can repeat this exercise with students or simply share it with them and hear their thoughts.

Now let’s do it- Take a notebook and create two columns. In one column, write out your daily schedule. In the other, write out your vision for how students will go about each routine. Just like my trip, the more time you spend thinking your routines through, the more likely they will become a reality!

Strategy 2: Develop community agreements. Students have roles and responsibilities when it comes to their learning community. We expect students to be active, engaged members of their microschool, so each student should be included in the creation of loving boundaries. We call these “community agreements.”

When creating community agreements, we encourage you to engage students in a dialogue around the Prenda Core Values. Have students brainstorm, discuss, and listen. Once a consensus is made, write the agreement on a large piece of paper. Tell students that their discussion has led to a shared agreement about the well-being of their microschool, and ask them to commit to maintaining these agreements by signing their names at the bottom of the paper.

Now let’s do it- Gather students in a circle. Ask them questions: “What kinds of actions will we see in our microschool if we are starting with heart? What kinds of actions should we not see?" Once students decide on these actions, shape it into a positive statement, write it down, and move on to the next core value.

Strategy 3:  Caringly and directly engage students when needed. As with all things, Murphy's Law applies to your microschool! This means that no matter how much you prepare, practice, and execute, at some point, you will be faced with a challenge.

Know that nothing is more important than your relationship with each student. A lot is at stake and we don’t want a student to retreat to their reptilian brain. Consider these steps when engaging with students:

  • Approach the student personally: Walk over to the student, physically get down below his/her eye-level, and speak calmly and respectfully.
  • Realize that there are two goals: One goal is the activity goal (ex. getting your laptops out for Conquer). The second goal is all about the relationship. Your conversation is meant to foster a foundation of trust and create a safe space for problem-solving and learning to take place.
  • Start with the relationship goal: You can do this by acknowledging the student, validating their feelings, and helping them reach a state of calm if they have become emotionally triggered in any way.
  • Then move onto the activity goal: Restate the purpose of the activity. For example, if a student is pushing others to get their laptop, remind them that the laptop needs to be in good working condition to start Conquer. Pushing could cause damage to laptops.
  • Provide choices: If a student still resists, you can give them two choices so that they feel a sense of control and autonomy in the situation.

Have more questions about Prenda and what Guides do? Visit www.prenda.com/become-a-guide to learn more about guiding and how to apply. You can also attend a Prenda Info Session to meet the Prenda Team and ask questions in an in-person or virtual setting.