How do we create rules to benefit the whole school?
This isn’t a word many students, or indeed adults, like to hear. The word ‘rules’ almost instantly sucks the life out of a situation if you are not careful. Yet rules are crucial for each and every classroom and learning environment. But like most things, there are ways of using, creating and upholding rules.
First we have to work out what the rules are and create a set of rules that will not only benefit the students but also the staff.
Keep It Short and Simple and avoid long lists or rules. Stick to 3 or 4 basic principles.
2. Be Positive
These 3 or 4 principles don’t need to be negative, in fact quite the opposite. Make them positive and make them push students to behave in a certain way rather than just avoiding doing something wrong.
3. Be Inclusive
Make the rules work for all ages and year groups. This can include adults – we have to be the role models in the classroom otherwise the rules won’t stick.
4. Be Clear
Rules don’t need to be long paragraphs full of details, they can just be clear and simple words.
At our school we use the words “Ready, Respectful & Safe”. Students read these and know what they need to do.
We can easily display these rules and share them with students at the start of a lesson.
5. Be Safe
It might be that you are working in a non-standard classroom setting where safety is of paramount importance.
Rules regarding safety are crucial and we mustn’t take for granted that students will always have the common sense needed in certain circumstances.
6. Involve Students
Where possible involve students in any new rules. If there is something going wrong in your classroom or things are not being respected, then work out some rules with your students.
7. Link to Learning
Link rules back to learning so that students can see the benefits of following the rules.
Going back to the concept of “Ready” this can help them focus on being prepared for their day at school, with the right books and equipment and therefore “ready” to learn.
It can also be linked to their homework – do they have everything they need in terms of knowledge in order to start writing an essay? Are they “ready” to properly complete a piece of work?
8. Be Specific
Make the rules specific to your working environment and don’t just follow the trends. I have never asked students to line up outside my room. Why? Well the corridor just gets quite busy and I like them to just come in and sit down.
Also I don’t have desks and so they have to get chairs out in a semi-circle which takes a bit of time. So think about your situation and explain the rules to the students.
9. Focus on Respect
Respect is a great place to start when it comes to rules. Simply thinking about respecting yourself and others is a great rule of thumb for life.
Respecting yourself means working hard to give yourself as many opportunities as possible – respecting others is allowing them to do the same. But respect can often be misused and misunderstood.
Make sure you change and adapt rules as your classes change or as the school changes.
Sometimes students can misinterpret rules and become very passive and quiet in lessons. So adapt and explain as you go.
Explain that, “Respecting others” for example, may not mean by sitting in silence and not contributing.
Freedom and Boundaries
The goal for any teacher is to create a situation where learning can happen.
Students need freedom to think, learn and create but also boundaries to succeed within. Sometimes rules are broken for various reasons and it is important as staff that we are always looking at the individual student and their situation in order to best support them.
Sticking to clear boundaries is so important and consistency within a school is key. Rules can be positive and they can definitely help students make progress. But if they are just stuck on a wall and are not part of the learning journey and experience every day, then they are almost pointless.
I truly believe that as staff we need to think about our own set of rules and boundaries so that we can lead by example and show students that rules can be positive.
My own personal rules are linked to my own goals for my day and week and I like students to think about their own personal discipline. Happy rule making!