Class rules

We’ve been learning this week how important it is to get on the front end of the classroom management train. That makes sense, of course; rules are not something you want to make up on the fly, and especially at the elementary age, kids need more guidance on appropriate ways to behave in school.

I like thinking of classroom management from general to specific: standards, rules, procedures. In general, how do we have a happy, peaceful classroom that is conducive to learning? By making the standard “Only act in a way that helps you and everyone else learn.” Nice and broad and simple for kids to understand. It has the benefit of being easily turned into a question, as in, “Zaina, are you acting in a way that is helping us learn?”

That’s followed by our classroom rules. I don’t have a complete list yet, as I’m sure I’ll find things I hadn’t thought of once I actually get into the classroom. In the meantime, a few of my non-negotiable rules include:

  • Listen when other people are talking.
  • Keep your hands and feet to yourself.
  • Follow directions quickly.

It will also be important to have rules for the playground and when walking in the halls. Kids find all sort of ways to hurt themselves on playgrounds, but rules like “Use two-hand touch” will do something to minimize that.

Finally, the nuts and bolts of our classroom come up in the procedures. In order to listen when other people are talking, students cannot be jumping up and sharpening pencils any time they want, for example. We will have a procedure along the lines of “Wait until you have been released to work before getting up to sharpen a pencil.”

It’s also important that students get a quick, productive start each morning, with as few distractions as possible, so we will have procedures to come into class and put things away in cubbies or on hooks. Students will know they have work waiting for them on the board that they need to get started on as soon as possible because I will have indicated that to them from the very first day and for several days following, with reminders in the form of positive feedback often.

I know that going in as a first-year teacher, I will have to keep an open mind about classroom procedures. The dynamics of a class from year to year could easily call for more specific procedures about what to do when students get silly or a little more vocal. That would be something that we discuss as a class, sitting down to talk about what strategies might work that will allow kids to be excited, while still ensuring that we’re all able to learn and that we are not disturbing other people. I can’t begin to guess what ideas students might have, but I do know that I want to encourage enthusiasm and fun–they’re third-graders, after all. And it might be a procedure we regularly revisit to check in on.

More than anything else, I know it’ll be important for students to buy into the rules and procedures of our classroom. They need to see the value of everything, otherwise why would they follow them? And part of that will be them seeing me follow all of the same standards, rules and procedures that I am holding them to.