The purpose of class rules is to protect every student’s right to learn and enjoy school.
It’s to form an impenetrable boundary that keeps misbehavior out and the freedom to teach in.
Do your rules do that? Do they account for every possible disruption?
Because if they don’t, if there are openings in your hedgerow, then your students will find their way through.
In time, those openings will grow larger and larger and misbehavior will grow more frequent and more severe.
So how do you know? How can you be sure your rules are sufficient?
Well, several years ago, I came up with a simple way to test them. Here’s how it works:
Take out a sheet of paper and draw a square in the center.
Outside of the square, write down every misbehavior you can think of that you’ve witnessed in the past five years—or for as long as you’ve been teaching. Take your time with this step. It’s most important.
Inside the square represents a well-behaved class. It represents politeness, respect, listening, and learning. It’s sacred and thus must be safeguarded from anything and everything that threatens it.
Now, take out your current set of rules. Go back and read all the misbehaviors you wrote down and determine if you have a rule that addresses each one.
If you do, then write the number of the rule next to the misbehavior. If you don’t, or you’re unsure, then underline it.
The underlined behaviors are openings in your wall. They result in guaranteed confusion—for both you and your students—more misbehavior, and slower academic progress.
To close them, you need to decide whether these stray misbehaviors can perhaps fall under a current rule or you must create a new rule.
The point of this exercise is to define for yourself in a very clear way which misbehavior triggers which rule.
This is critical because when you’re able to recognize rule-breaking when you see it—i.e. no gray areas—then being consistent in enforcing consequences becomes a lot easier.
You’re also prepared to teach, model, and define for your students what each rule means, so they too will know, without a doubt, what is and isn’t okay.
This way, you avoid arguments and misunderstandings.
You avoid appearing wishy-washy and losing respect and influence. You avoid the loopholes and frustration of seeing the same misbehavior repeated again and again.
And not knowing what to do about it.
PS – For the rules we recommend here at SCM, please check out the elementary and high school guides in the sidebar at right.
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