Rules and the stability of routine-A A +A
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
ONE way to let students sign in and adhere to rules is to make them realize rules are created to make their life easier and not simply make teachers’ life more convenient.
I have a creative way of impressing the importance of rules to my students. Allow me to share it with you. As preview I would present to them pictures of signboards with printed rules or regulations. Then I would proceed by asking what rules are and what are they made for. After that I would tell them about the prevalence of rules. They seem to be everywhere. In fact, in all places we go there are rules. I would try to elicit response to the question, “Don’t you resent the fact that there are restrictions in everything we do. Don’t you think rules curtail our freedom?”
Not surprisingly most students would nod in agreement. As reinforcement I would then encourage them to close their eyes. In my most inviting tone I would ask them to imagine a world without rules. I would feed their imagination by giving details that conjure up to a dirty world. I would help them create a mental image of an utterly rule less setting like for example walking in the streets naked (expect chuckles), taking someone else’s property, inflicting pain to just anyone, all these without facing any repercussion.
Slowly I would request my students to open their eyes and ask them what they saw. And so they would start describing. I would help them arrive at the words chaos, pandemonium, disaster, bedlam and the like.
After a while I would ask them if they like what they saw and if they would wish to live in such a world. Having seen a disorderly scene they would more likely say no. Other kids would probably say yes but teacher should not take it to heart. Nevertheless, he should try to get a relevant explanation for such answer. Processing the lesson on rules would now entail stressing their significance or the reasons why they exist. On the valuing part I would emphasize that rules help define our character in place and that we should respect them.
Along this line it is equally important to draw a clear line over what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior and stick to it. Dictate the tone of your lesson. Students are confused being chastised one day and let off on others. Students cannot cope with inconsistency. They crave the stability of routine. It is amazing that students can adapt to teachers throughout the day that range from strict to easy. However, they will dislike an environment in which the rules are constantly changing. It goes without saying that you have to be consistent with praise and punishment.
Do not be perceived to have favorites. Every teacher does have preferred students but the best teacher aims to treat everybody equally.
It would also be good to start out tough because you can always relax your rules as time progresses if it is appropriate. But it is next to impossible to become tougher once you’ve shown your pliant side. Do not expect to be able to pull round a class that you have allowed to transgress boundary by suddenly cracking the whip.
Now you might be worried that being too harsh or tyrannical with the students might make you unpopular at school. Actually you don’t have to be the hard bitten authoritarian who goes straight for the nuclear option. You have a range of sanctions from the meaningful glance to exclusion. Work your way through them slowly.
We all make mistakes when we are teaching. I know that there have been many instances when I’ve done something which I regretted upon further reflection. I’ve learned that we just have to show these kids kindness and love, but at the same time be strict, showing them who the boss is (you obviously). Do that and they’ll love you.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on June 21, 2012.