Five years into teaching I removed the rules from my board. It was school policy that we post them. What happens when a kid talks, how many strikes before getting a detention…
That was the year I realized that rules, policies, and strategies make no difference in student performance. It was the year I realized that classroom culture trumps all, and by removing my list of rules, I removed the unwritten message that told the kids that I will try to catch them when they were “bad” so that I can punish them to make them stop.
In place of the rule poster I put a quote. I don’t remember what it was…one of those touchy feely inspirational quotes. And then I hung another…and another. It made my room feel very different. It went from a room in which motivating and inspiring became more important than consequences and punishments. It took me five years to figure that out.
Soon after that I found that I had unwritten rules being slowly developed. There were rules in my class, but they were not written on the walls. They were subliminal messages sent by me with every interaction I had with a kid, with every assignment I handed out, and with every conversation I had with a kid after each problem.
I slowly started to realize that many of the “negative” behaviors were not caused by “bad” kids, but by kids who were afraid to be awesome. Kids who kept control of their dignity by purposely failing, messing around in class, or any number of other things because if they did not try to be awesome, then they could not fail. It was not about being afraid to “think outside-the-box,” It was bout remaining in control. Getting a kid to move outside of their comfort zone can be very uncomfortable because you have to first convince them that it is ok to lose control of the results. For that to happen you need a room where everyone feels safe, where everyone knows that they will fall, but when they look up, they will see a hand being held out to help them back up…not a set of rules ready to push them back down.
My non-negotiable rule in my room is not for the kids, it is for me.
When they fall, help them up.
It sounds too simple to make a difference, but it is the only rule that does.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. We were born to make manifest the glory that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Above edited quote from Marianne Williamson