One of my intentions with my personal statement workshops is to help students feel safe. Setting agreements is one way I do that, as I feel that doing so can help students feel more willing to share. I recommend keeping the agreements short and simple, so they’re easily remembered. Here are mine:
  1. Confidentiality/“No gossip” policy. This means that anything you hear in this room stays in this room.
  2. Listen with respect. This means being fully present with your partner (not interrupting, making jokes, looking at your phone, etc.).
  3. Participate fully. This means remaining open to the process and trying out the exercises. If you feel discomfort, see if you can lean a bit and remain curious: Why am I feeling what I’m feeling? Some of you will be inspired to share things you haven’t shared before, either with this person or maybe with anyone. I encourage you to be brave.
  4. Take care of yourself. This means physically--as in, go to the bathroom or get water if you need to--but this also means mentally and emotionally. So if there’s something you don’t want to share, don’t.
I've also found that these particular agreements help to build a little anticipation and excitement. Feel free to make up your own agreements, or use these.

Before we begin, your counselor or teacher will share with you a few agreements. Listen up, as they’ll help create an environment where you can be your open, creative, awesome self.

Once the agreements have been explained (and this takes just one minute), I do one more thing--and it’s an important part of creating a container. I say:

“Raise your hand if you are willing to keep these agreements. Keep your hands raised. Everyone look around. Are all hands up? (Pause, so that everyone can see that they are. Wait, if needed.) Good. Then we’re in agreement.”

This helps create a safe space.