What would our world be like if there were no rules?
That’s a dumb question because if you have kids or have spent any time around kids, you already know the answer to that. But it’s the kind of rhetorical question teachers pose to students before coming up with class rules. The teacher explains why we need rules, and the students tune it out. They’ve heard the speech before and know what’s coming next: They’re about to get a list of the “shoulds” and “should nots” for the class.
Naturally, (or not so naturally) this leads to our next buzzword for the A-Z blog challenge. Today is letter N, so the term is “negative based rules.”
In order to create a climate of fairness, sharing and positivity within the school, teachers are routinely advised to come up with the rules for the class with the students. When discussing rules, the teacher should focus on what the students CAN do in class, not what they CAN’T do. I assume this leads to empowerment and higher self-esteem for all. A student can then enter a classroom and say to him or herself, “This classroom is full of potential and possibility because there are so many things I CAN do here! I CAN speak respectfully to other students and adults! I CAN keep my hands to myself! I CAN participate in class discussions. There are no limits to what I CAN do!”
Having no negative-based rules is a nice idea, and I’m not one to disparage it, except I will, right now. Personally, I think it’s better to lay out your classroom expectations. For example, you as the teacher might say, “I expect that you’ll turn in your work – your work, not work that you copied off of Darryl’s paper or plagiarized from the Internet. I also expect that you’ll put your phone away when you come in because that’s polite. Also, I expect that I’ll be able to get a fourth of the way through this discussion before one of you interrupts me with a random question about whether Kanye West is talented or not.”
I may be just arguing semantics here, but I think setting out expectations rather than trying to avoid “don’ts” and “should nots” is a better way to approach class rules. The teacher is saying that this is what she expects from the class, which leads to what the class can expect from her. From there, the teacher can better explain what’s going to happen when the students don’t meet those expectations. This method is still non-negative, but more practical.
Having said all that, I still have some negative-based rules. I find that a few “do nots” are necessary. Here are a few:
- Do NOT use profanity in my classroom.
- Do NOT sit in at my desk, in my chair, or touch anything on my desk.
- Do NOT argue with me if I have to confiscate your phone.
- Do NOT touch my Coke Zero, or ask if you can have some.
- Do NOT ask, "What are we doing today?" Read what's on the board.
- Do NOT ask if we "can just have a fun day." (See part F for reference)
- Do NOT tell me Kanye West is a genius and that I just don't understand him.
- Do NOT ask, "Am I your favorite student?"
Scratch that last one. The list should be more positive. You CAN ask the question, and you CAN be unhappy with the answer!