Last week, I shared a way to make sure your class rules cover every possible misbehavior.
But if you did the exercise, you may have noticed something strange. Something you weren’t sure what to do with.
Something left over.
You see, the exercise was designed to reveal not only weaknesses in your classroom management plan, but also rules you don’t need.
Some readers even discovered that none of their rules covered actual disruptions.
How can this be?
Well, it’s common to confuse rules with encouragements—which are behaviors you’d like to see in your students but are ultimately unenforceable.
Furthermore, these “rules” get passed around from teacher to teacher and even make their way onto posters you can buy online.
Here are some examples:
- Do your best.
- Be ready to learn.
- Try new things.
- Have fun.
- Dream big.
- Make wise choices.
- Take responsibility.
- Be a friend.
- Have good manners.
- Help each other.
- Love to learn.
- Keep an open mind.
- Be caring.
- Work hard.
- Practice good sportsmanship.
They’re nice, to be sure, and wonderful to advocate. They can even be used as themes for your class or weekly reminders of their importance.
But they’re not rules.
Rules protect your freedom to teach and your students’ right to learn and enjoy school. That’s it. Their job is singularly focused on curbing disruptions.
Whether it’s calling out, side-talking, disrespect, ignoring directions, or otherwise . . . it’s behavior that has a negative impact on listening, learning, and the polite, kind culture of the classroom.
Encouragements like those listed above, on the other hand, do no such thing and are all but impossible to enforce. They’re vague, subjective, and difficult to determine whether they’ve been broken.
They’re also incredibly confusing to students—and hurtful if you do attempt to enforce them.
To ensure your rules are rightly suited for their intended purpose, I recommend completing the exercise from last week. In just a few minutes, you can to test whether they cover any and every misbehavior you may encounter and whether or not they’re enforceable.
And if they’re not? If some of what you thought were rules are actually encouragements, exhortations, and the like?
Then get rid of them.
PS – I’ll be in New York City next week speaking to administrators from Success Academy Schools, but will be back with a new article on July 2oth.
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