Liz’s Classroom Rules

After substitute teaching for the last 3 years at Kodiak High School I was a bit nonplussed when I was assigned to Kodiak Middle School this year for student teaching in an 8th grade science classroom. Grades 9 through 12 had become comfortable for me, despite occasional havoc and displays of defiant behavior by a student every now and then. It had been rumored that the Middle School was a seething, raging pit inhabited by demonic pubescent monsters who swallowed teachers whole and rended paraprofessionals limb from limb for fun! So with head hung low and expectations even lower, I slunk into the 8th grade science room on my first morning and, to my surprise, there was no sign posted anywhere which read, “Abandon hope, all who enter here.” First period class began and, to my utter surprise, all students were in their seats before the bell rang — and they were actually working on their warm-up exercise with diligence and focus! My mentor teacher segued flawlessly into the lab activity following the lecture portion of the lesson. It hit me then: Now THIS is classroom organization and management! She’s who I want to be when I grow up!! Well, me growing up is probably never going to happen, so let’s just settle for “when I become a full-time, credentialed educator.”

A week has gone by and each class period passes like my initial experience in this classroom. How can this be? I asked Kathryn to share her secret formula with me. “From the very first day in class,” Kathryn said, “I’m up front with students about what they can expect from me and what I expect to see from them in terms of behavior, class routine, mutual respect, participation and classwork.” She went on to describe how students know to take a “starter” sheet off her desk as they enter and to work on it immediately. There’s an established routine in terms of the framework for her class time but Kathryn switches things up by having students work in groups every now and then or discuss problem solving with a neighbor; this keeps kids engaged. I noticed Kathryn switches gears about every 10 min. or so — sometimes more frequently — and this WORKS! The galactic center around which her well-managed classroom orbits is mutual respect: Kathryn demonstrates it and the students model it back. Every now and then she may have to remind a student to not talk over a classmate or to not whisper and giggle while Kathryn’s teaching, but it’s a pleasure to observe and, believe me, I’m taking copious notes!

So, as a future science teacher, my classroom rules are: 1. Respect yourself and others; 2. Personal accountability; 3. Preparedness; 4. Punctuality; and 5. Lab Safety. From my perspective, all classroom rules are an extension of #1; subsequently, you can’t successfully enforce any classroom rules until #1 is established.

I found the following article interesting. “Managing the Middle School Classroom: 3 Golden Rules,” authored by guest-blogger Mark Aaron, appears on, and reminded me how effective a tool humor can be, both with one’s self and with students. Aaron echoes my views of personal accountability on the part of students and the teacher as well. Additionally he makes a great point: If you promise your students something, whether reward or consequence, be sure to deliver.   Check it out:

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