• Josh Arnold

Roll Out: Classroom Rules and Procedures

Previously, I wrote about the authoritarian classroom. One that operates under the “my way or the highway” philosophy. Where learning is more about control of the classroom than developing caring and open minded students. Compliance is valued and teacher/student collaboration might be absent.

This week on Twitter I noticed a discussion on how best to roll out procedures and rules for the start of the school year. One assumption is that spending a lot of time on procedures (two weeks was mentioned) would help to pay the most dividends as the school year progresses. I admit I used to be like this. I spent a lot of the first week talking to students about how it would be once we started learning content. It felt good to be in front of students who were listening and a few even buying into the hype.

However, in all that talking to students I didn’t spend much time asking them how they wanted to learn. I did ask the usual questions: how old they were, if they had any nicknames, who their friends were, etc. Absent from this was me asking them what they wanted to learn and how they wanted to learn. If I did ask these questions it was still meant to get to know them. I paid little attention to these details when it came to actually shaping the way my classroom was taught.

My current practice includes me talking about how I teach the classroom. What my grading policy is all about, what they can expect for quizzes, tests, and projects. My focus is less on “these are the rules” and more on this is what an ideal day in my classroom looks and sounds like. Then I spend time discussing with students who they are responsible to for following these procedures. I make plenty of opportunity for feedback from students on how better to run the classroom and what kinds of learning activities they want from me during the school year. Later, when I put to use some of these student suggestions I make sure to say “this was requested at the start of the school year.” This helps to validate their contributions to the classroom.

Posting classroom rules was also a topic on Twitter this week. I’ve seen plenty of classrooms post contracts that all students sign and even ones that allow students to author the rules. I think this is useful to most classrooms as the students are often very aware of what will disrupt their own learning. I like posting some kind of guidelines (last year I called them “Essential Agreements” and I’ve also called them “Classroom Norms”). I use them when a student becomes disruptive so I can focus the discussion with something specific that I have already addressed with the class. The discussion usually ends with the students agreeing that they did understand the guidelines and they would work on it. If parents get involved later on it helps to go back to what those guidelines are and being specific about how the student has not lived up to them.

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