“O.K., I’ll wait until you are done,” the other student replied and the issue was resolved without any intervention from us adults.
At the beginning of the school year we sat with our students and drew up a list of classroom rules. They were very simple and focused on individual and group rights and responsibilities. The first month I directed my students to these rules and the reason behind them quite explicitly. For example, “Raise your hand and wait for your turn. I will call your name when it is your turn. If all of you talk at the same time, everything sounds jumbled and I won’t be able to understand you.” As the year progressed we noticed how often our students used the reason behind each rule to navigate through social interactions.
Society requires all of us to follow certain basic rules. No one is born with an understanding of these rules. They have to be taught explicitly to children. Teachers play an important role in this as children spend most of their waking hours in the classroom.
What should teachers do?
- Draw up a set of rules with your students at the beginning of the school year.
- Post these rules prominently in the classroom. If you teach young children, use pictures along with the words on your poster.
- Keep the rules simple.
- Explain how everyone has to follow rules-at school, at home, at work.
- Finally, discuss the reason behind these rules.
In our Indian school system we place a lot of emphasis on following rules as means of showing respect to the teachers. Yes, following directions does show respect but that isn’t all, is it? The ultimate purpose behind rules is to teach our students to be responsible members of society. Society functions smoothly only when its citizens understand that rights come with responsibilities.
In the classroom this translates into
- Following directions
- Waiting for your turn
- Respecting others’ belongings and their person
- Using polite language
Rules help prevent behavioral challenges. When students know what behavior is acceptable, they will try to emulate the same. What happens if these rules are not followed in the classroom? The teacher spends less time teaching and more time managing behaviors. Some students may become disruptive, others disinterested and distracted.
To be continued...