At the beginning of the year my mentor already had her very basic rules set for her classroom. Mainly focused on encouraging students’ senses of personal responsibility in the classroom, these are her rules: 1. Always have something that you are working on. 2. Constantly think about what, how, and why you are learning or working. 3. Behave in a way that allows everyone else to follow rules 1 and 2. The rest of her rules and procedures are introduced and enforced verbally, but her main strategy is to build rapport with students, and manage the classroom that way.
I enjoy this style and can see that it works for her, but in my own classroom I would be more explicit about my expectations for how the classroom should look. Preparedness and professionalism are both important skills, especially as students near graduation and are getting ready to move into the “real world.” As such, the first rule is “Come to class physically and intellectually prepared to learn.” In other words, have what you need, including your turned on brain, to be a contributing member of the intellectual community that exists inside the classroom. The second rule: “Respect the opinions and ideas of others.” In order for students to learn, they must feel safe sharing their ideas in the classroom. Rule #3: “Give of yourself and encourage others to do the same.” Piggy backing off of Rule 2, this rule encourages students to be open with their ideas and to practice being helpful and engaged classroom citizens. Finally, Rule #4: “Be willing to fail and to learn from the experience.” This one might require different wording so that students don’t check out and take Fs, but the idea, as with all of these rules, is to encourage students to approach learning as a process and a journey that is not absolutely right or wrong, but individual to each of their circumstances. By designing classroom rules around the fact that individuals are students I am trying to make the rules a tool for student learning rather than simple management. A productive way to get buy in from students on these rules would be to present them as your expectations and then to have a discussion with students about what the rules mean. Put aside any ego and allow revisions to be made so that the rules make sense to the students while still achieving the same desired effect.
Below are a few resources that I found helpful when thinking about designing classroom rules:
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