I haven’t needed rules this year.
After all, I teach AP English and Advisory 12. It’s been really easy. I think I’ve had two (somewhat) challenging moments with classroom management this year. Maybe one.
This is how it should be. After all, there’s a lot of work to do. I’m a good person, and my students are good people, and we don’t have time to waste on silliness.
Last year, however, didn’t work that way. It was my worst year (even harder than my first!), and it nearly made me leave teaching.
I remember floundering last year, trying to figure out what was going wrong, wondering whether I was too weak and what I needed to change. I sought help from colleagues and in books, and one key piece of advice I received was that I needed more consistent rules and consequences. But no matter how much I tried to implement a plan, nothing worked.
And now I know why.
It’s because rules and consequences are silly. It’s because they focus on control and punishment. It’s because they don’t center on learning.
The best classrooms have rules, of course, but if you ask the students what they are, they don’t really know. It’s because the teacher mentioned them on the first day and then didn’t need them afterward. It’s because the students check their own behavior and check each other. And it’s because everyone knows they’re valued, loved, and respected as learners and as people.
In the best classrooms, values and expectations are more important than rules. What is demonstrated is more important than what is said.
Nevertheless, when I need rules again — perhaps next year — I’ve come up with what I think is a good working list. Here they are:
1. Work hard.
2. Be respectful.
3. Have integrity.
You’ll notice that they aren’t really rules. But I like them, and I think they cover everything. If my students and I can follow them, we’ll all be all right.