by Bill Page
"No," I do not post classroom rules and, "Yes," I oppose doing so. My classroom rules are implicit, and like it or not, so are everyone else's (the explicit ones not withstanding). My kids either know or learn the limits, boundaries, expectations and tolerance levels by experiencing normal, routine, and continuous classroom dynamics and functions. I cannot believe that whoever started the "post your rules" rule thought that an eighth grader who has been in school at least nine years would need to start from scratch in each class, each year, with such rules as "Come Prepared," or "Come on time."
Do you really think your students do not know what it takes to get you angry? Upon what occasions you stride to the back of the room? How you feel about late assignments? What it takes to get "kicked out?" The meaning of various facial expressions, voice inflections or posturing? When you were a student, did you not know, outside of their being posted, the behaviors your teachers required, expected, tolerated or demanded? If you need to know something, might it be better to be told at a time when it is meaningful, immediate and specific, so that clarification could be made? How often are the "rules" violated due to lack of knowledge of them?
It has been my experience that kids use the rules like jail house lawyers more often than they do for understanding. My kids in the "reform school" played the "rules game" beautifully; "Yes, I know you said eight o'clock but you didn't say 'central time.' I can't help it if the clock was wrong. Forty minutes isn't "late," you didn't specify the lateness standard. (Remember the well-known politician who needed clarification on what "is" is.) Kids at every level play the game with lies, half lies, rationalizations, pity and excuses, excuses, excuses. Are you going to post rules about that too?
When I stated that I do not post rules, I was asked what I would do if district policy requires such posting. I would simply make my implicit rules explicit and post them.
Here they are:
- You may not hurt anyone.
To the best of my ability, I have zero tolerance for anyone in my purview ever hurting anyone; physically, psychologically or emotionally. You can expect and be certain that I will use whatever procedures are available to me to prevent any degree verbal or corporeal assault.
- You may not keep others from learning.
Those who are assigned to this school, the people (Community members, Tax- payers, Parents, District Administrators, etc.), and I are responsible for this school, this room, its function and its contents. I, as a hired agent, along with these facilities, have been made available to you for the purpose of learning. My, responsibility, according to a binding contract, is to ensure that you learn the prescribed curriculum, or at least have a viable opportunity to do so.
Because of my contract, commitment and responsibility, I will do whatever is necessary to prevent any interference with anyone else's learning procedures, or my plans and strategies for teaching the required material. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, there may be times, in spite of my best efforts, an individual may choose not to learn or to follow the learning assignments; but he or she may not choose to hinder me or others from any learning procedures.
- Learn the chain of command. There are many things that you may encounter that are not in my jurisdiction or realm of control. Things such as these;
- This is a history class -- I teach history. I do not discuss "Survivor," or the NFL.
- The class begins at 8:40. I am sorry you are not a "morning person" or that it is a problem for you to get here at that time.
- You and I are assigned to this room whether we like it or not. If you have any comments, complaints or preferences, please do not waste my time and yours by addressing me. Direct them to the proper authorities.
- This classroom operates on Democratic Principles. The first principle being that those who are effected by the rules, participate in the rules to the extent of that effect.. This applies only to procedures in this classroom. You will probably need to learn to distinguish between rules and procedures; between democracy and anarchy (commonly mistaken for permissivism), and between group rights and individual rights. Stand by for definitions and explanations as the class proceeds.
Actually I do post something at my door but it is not rules or even procedures. It is a summary of the concepts upon which I operate and which students can expect to encounter in the classroom. It is a "Student Bill of Rights" which I offer and guarantee. I call it a creed.
Bill Page: A PERSONAL CREED
- I shall guarantee:
- That I will utilize democratic principles as the basis of my relationship and interaction with all students.
- That I will provide each student with a student-centered learning continuum that invites learning by individual discovery and inquiry.
- That I will provide each student with equal access to learning experiences appropriate to his or her needs.
- It is my responsibility to use, offer, or provide the following:
- Production-driven, authentic, thematic, concept, hands-on, and project-oriented, cooperative, approaches.
- Independent study and learning options.
- Learning experiences determined by, or cooperatively with, the personal needs and interests of the learner.
- Creative learning processes through discovery, exploration, collaboration, and inquiry.
- Learning experiences as a single entity (without regard to curricula categories) with emphasis on communication (speaking, listening, reading, and writing).
- Field trips as an integral, ongoing, regular, frequent, small group activity.
- Student exchange, student cooperation, student interaction.
- Inter-school and inter-district student cooperation and collaboration and exchange.
- Community resources as a broad, expansive, experience resource.
- It shall be my responsibility to make special effort to:
- Develop and insure democratic relationships through modeling, interpersonal skills, values, and relationship experiences.
- Encourage new areas of study that reflect ethnic, cultural and individual student interests.
- Encourage interest in, and examination of, contemporary issues.
- Be cognizant of the potential for many kinds of biases, prejudices, and discrimination on my part and to critique myself regularly.
- Develop quality learning experiences for and with each student.
- I shall abandon, abolish, eliminate and fight the use of the following:
- The feeling of constraints caused by the length of the school day, week, or year.
- Formal examinations except at the student's request for his or her own use and benefit.
- Assigned "homework" (replaced with long term projects that encourage cooperation, independent study and personal relevance).
- The idea of discipline as separate from learning or from responsibility, or communication.
- The use of class rank, percentage marks, letter grades, norm standards or grading (replaced by authentic, holistic, student-involved assessment and by portfolios, student work, exhibits, and a standard of "personal best").
THIS CREDO TO BE POSTED PROMINENTLY AND BE MADE AVAILABLE TO STUDENTS, THEIR PARENTS, VISITORS AND OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES.