Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why I don't do "Class Rules"

Early on, I decided I was not going to be the kind of teacher that posted the word "rules" big and bold on my wall followed by a bunch of bland printed out, (or store bought) demands for my students to abide by. Before you get the wrong idea, I am also not the kind of teacher who thinks Jimmy can do whatever he wants because he can learn lessons within himself. No, no, no. But I do have a personal problem with the word rules. Let me tell you why.

A rule, to me, means a regulation that is enforced and must always be followed without question. When the word rule is thrown around, it makes me feel as though students must listen because they are told to do so and they are never encouraged to internalize why the rule is important. It's simply important because someone somewhere said so.

As adults, we live our lives and make our choices based on many things. We choose what is right and wrong based on our values, beliefs, morals, and cultural expectations. Now, I'd venture to say that in life, we have "rules" too. Adults have laws to abide by as citizens but we even break laws as we see fit. When we do break a law, there may or may not be a consequence depending on if it was seen by someone enforcing our "rules."Most times, we follow the laws - even if we are running late and don't see an officer in sight- because we know it's what we should do. When we don't follow the laws, we ourselves are weighing the consequences in doing so. My point is, we always have a choice. We can choose to do what is right, but if we choose to do what is wrong, there may be consequences. Everything has an outcome and we hold the power in our hands every single day.

Expectation Board with definition and expectations at student eye level

In my opinion, teachers use "rules" incorrectly all the time. They may reprimand a child for talking in the hall one day, but may totally ignore it the next when they stop to joke with another teacher friend about a television show the night before. This creates inconsistency in what we are telling our students to expect. We are teaching them that the enforcing of rules has nothing to do with them and their choices but everything to do with us and ours and I don't think that is giving them the correct mind set.

In my classroom, I wanted my students to internalize their decisions. I wanted them to think about the benefits of doing what is right versus the consequences of doing wrong. That, to me, is real life. So instead of rules, my class has expectations. It may sound the same to you, but to me it is all about how these principles are presented. 

Ron Clark's book, "The Essential 55" was like a dream come true for me. It seemed to align perfectly with what I dreamed of instilling in my future students. I highly recommend reading ALL of his books. They are nothing short of inspirational. He does have 55 rules for his students, and some of my expectations are from his book. Others have been adapted to better suite lower grade levels.

When introducing my 12 expectations, I explain that an expectation is a strong belief that something will happen. We talk about what that means and how we should always do what is best because we have the power to do so. I do tell my students that they can choose not to live up to my expectations as well, and if they don't, they need to understand and accept any outcome because of their choice. I stress that if we all live by the expectations, our time together at school will be much more valuable. 

My students loved our expectations and it was very helpful to use them as reminders. For example, I would say, "What is expectation number 6?" while students were lining up or "Let's remember expectation number 7!" when students started speaking while I was teaching.

I created a pdf version of these expectations to share on my tpt store. I recently updated my file as I wanted it to be bright and cheery to match my theme for next school year.

I hope that you found this post to be interesting and maybe bring you on board with teaching your students about expectations rather than rules. If you are interested in seeing my "lesson plan" for introducing my expectations, let me know in the comments below.

See you in my next post!


  1. I would love to see your lesson plans of introducing the expectations. I've been following you since your youtube days(miss your vids by the way!) and was so happy to see that you finally became a teacher! I completed my first year of teaching second grade in June and have been thinking about changing my class 'rules.' However, I am kind of scared to start from scratch trying something new all over again. Hope you are enjoying your summer!

    1. Awesome! I loved that these "rules" told the students exactly what was expected rather than being super broad. They also started creating expectations themselves are expanding on them which was really cool. They really took it all to heart! I will be sharing my lesson plan either as a freebie on tpt or as a document on google docs if I can figure that out. Either way I will post about it so keep an eye out! Congrats on your first year! I'm moving to second this year as a departmentalized teacher and I'm so nervous!!