I can remember my first year of teaching and agonizing over every detail like where students would turn in assignments, how I would keep track of homework, and most of all… what would my rules be? I no longer remember what my classroom rules were that first year, but I do remember having them. I remember focusing on them. I remember them being, what I thought back then, as the most important thing in my classroom. Were they? Nope. The students were. I had some vision that if I had my rules posted, the students would learn….because I said so.
As time went by, my rules became less important and were down to “Be Respectful. Be Your Best. Be Responsible. Be Positive.” I still had them. I still posted them. I still, what I though, enforced them. Through that time, I went through eMINTS training. I learned how to build a classroom community. I learned how to write “Norms” with the kids. I learned how to turn that control of learning over to the most important thing in the classroom…my students. Each year, I write norms with the students. Now that I teach the same group of kids every year for 4 years, we keep our norms. This year, I’m not even posting “My Rules.” Instead, I’ve picked 5 norms that my students have written and turned them into big posters, that I have also shared. Okay, confession, I did add one of my own… “We Create.”
It feels good to take those rules down. It feels like I’m truly turning the reins over to students. Sure, it can be scary to think…oh no…will they be throwing paperwads by noon? No. They won’t. When your kids care about each other and their classroom, the only thing that will happen is they will learn. Best of all, they won’t be learning because they are told to. They will be learning because they WANT to. Motivation doesn’t come from rules, it comes from being engaged. So, engage them, and when that “Rules” poster falls down…it won’t matter one bit.