Tag Archives: rules

The Rules of the Game

24 Feb

I’ve never been good at following rules. While I understand important rules that keep us safe and maintain a certain degree of order, a lot of rules seem to exist only to stifle creativity. In my personal life, I like to do unexpected things at unexpected times; things that are outside of society’s “norms”, and don’t follow the “rules” of the world. If people look at me like I’m a little crazy, it doesn’t bother me. Needless to say this makes me a pretty unconventional teacher. I have tattoos, I don’t think it’s always a bad thing for kids to call out, and listening to a little music never hurt anyone. Obviously, it’s easier for me since I teach art, and understandably the rules are different in the art room than they are in the math room. I encourage my kids to participate in discussion, and have found that waiting for a raised hand often stops the flow of ideas. I like for them to feel comfortable expressing themselves, and if they need to listen to Jay-Z to do that, that’s ok with me too.

So it took me a few years to really settle on my Classroom Rules. I had to learn about myself as a teacher, and what was really important to me. I had to learn the nature of my kids, and what things tended to cause problems throughout the year. When I would look at other teachers’ rules, they just seemed empty and meaningless, like “Don’t talk out” or “Stay in your seat”. Nobody was talking about the anger our kids were dealing with: that it was a common occurrence to get angry at another student and walk out, or get angry at your work and tear it to bits (something that always broke my heart). I wanted to find a way to discuss the issues I felt were most important, and do it in a way that was down to earth and simple.

1. Clean up after yourself: where you were sitting, and any materials you used.
2. Treat everyone the way you expect they should treat you.
3. Don’t walk out. If you need to go somewhere, I need you to talk to me about it first.
4. Don’t be afraid to express yourself. This is the one place where there really is no wrong answer.
5. Respect the work that people do in here. Don’t destroy or alter someone else’s art, or your own.

By designating a bulletin board in the front of my room as the rule board, these five rules were always visible and I could refer to them when I needed to. I always explained them in the beginning of the year, and the kids always seemed to appreciate the fact that I was not only looking out for what I wanted, but that I was ready to stand up for them too. In fact, it was a rule that I do so. And that was a rule that even I could follow.