I decided to turn the tables on my 8th grade students this year. Instead of reading to them the rules of my room, I told them the job was theirs. You should have seen their faces!
As you know, safety in the classroom is most important for me. In fact, rule number one has always been: this is a safe space.
But, as I began to think about the annual first-week-of-school routine of reading the rules and practicing class routines, I wondered how safe students felt. Consider the jolt that is back-to-school (routine, uniform, new material, new teachers, etc., etc.). Add to that a catalog of rules specific to each class/teacher/cafeteria, and safety isn’t the word I’d use to describe that.
I thought about another belief I have about children: they always rise to the occasion. Give them responsibility and they will do a good job. Treat them like they are mature and they will respond maturely.
To begin my relationship with my students with the expectation that they didn’t intuitively know how to behave and how to prioritize their education, would not provide a safe opportunity for them to showcase their maturity.
So, I changed my strategy. I had my students write their own rules.
Guess what? They out-did anything I could have come up with:
1. Keep it loyal & honest; be trustworthy
We are teammates, family and friends. We show our loyalty and commitment to one another by being honest. We work honestly, speak truthfully and act loyally.
2. Be responsible
Being responsible means being prepared for class and doing your homework. It means leaving a place cleaner than you found it. It means taking responsibility for your learning and asking for help when you need it. If something comes up we take responsibility and discuss those circumstances with the teacher.
We know there are no excuses in the game of life.
3. Be relentless
Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.
4. Be self-critical
At the end of the day the winner will be the one who was the most self-critical. Who identified his own weaknesses and every opportunity for improvement. The winner will be the one who didn’t stop working until all of those weaknesses were strengths and until each of his skills improved.
There’s always room for improvement.
5. Respect one another.
Respect is the foundation of good relationships. Without good relationships with one another we won’t be able to get through the difficult challenges we will face in 8th grade and beyond. We respect the chance to learn each day. We respect one another’s needs, ideas, questions, words and space. We listen when others speak. We encourage.
We respect these principles.
If you are interested in having your students write their own rules, sign up for my email subscription. I’ll be sending out the lesson plan this week. And, in case you are wondering, yes, it’s CCSS-alinged