Thursday, August 2, 2012

Classroom Expectations

My classroom expectations are pretty much the complete opposite of what you're "supposed" to do. When I was a new teacher I learned that you were supposed to only have like two or three rules- things like be respectful and be responsible- and the rationale was because everything really fits under these categories.  I think this sounds great in theory (and I'm sure there are tons of teachers making this work) but it just didn't work for me.  

Maybe it's the math person in me, but I don't do well with vague.  I like things that are clearly defined. Two years ago when I had hit my limit with my difficult kids I sat down and just started writing EXACTLY what was appropriate behavior because they clearly had no idea.  Another teacher on my team had started using something similar and it was working.  This was what I came up with.

I was like a crazy person as I wrote these down.  Having things handwritten like this is SO not my style.
Also note that during class I wrote twice that they needed to stay in their seats.  A kid pointed that out
to me and I said it was like that because that's just how important it was.  Those kids drove me nuts
 because they were ALWAYS out of their seats.

This way, when they did something I thought was not ok there was no conversation or arguing, I could just point to the wall and say "During class you need to stay in your seat and you got out of your seat. That's not ok."  And then move on.  I'll usually give them one or two warnings and then a consequence. End of story.  They can't argue with me about they weren't doing anything because everything is so clear.  

I would also usually always talk with the kids after class or during lunch or something.  I always try to talk to kids the same way I talk to my peers.  This is something I feel strongly about.  The kids that I work with DO NOT do well with being talked down to.  I don't just give them detention, but I explain that although they might not think walking to trash can 5 times is a big deal what they didn't realize is that 3 other kids stopped paying attention while they walked by.  And I explain that it makes it really difficult for me to do my job when that is happening.  I tell them that I really want to make sure that everyone understands what's going on and when things like that start to happen other kids get confused and even I get distracted from teaching and that can get to be a problem for everyone.  

The thing is though that I don't have time to have that conversation during class.  So I opted for rules that don't allow any arguing during class.  Actually they don't call it arguing do they?  



For this year, the rules got typed up and photocopied nice and big for the wall which is much more my style.  This picture is terrible, but you get the idea.

They also have a copy that goes in their ISN.


I know that this is not exactly the "right" way to do rules, but it's what works for me.  Am I the only one or is there anyone else doing something similar?

13 comments:

  1. Where were you a year ago when I was starting my first year and I was told that if I did everything Harry Wong said I would be good to go. WRONG! I had similar kids as you that really needed structure, I think having a bulletin board with everything written on it would have been a great way to fix some of my discipline issues. I can't wait to finally see my room at my new school to see whether or not I'll have wall space for things like this.

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    1. Oh trust me, I did the same thing for like four years. Classroom management is just one of those things that comes with time as you teach. Thinking about it now, I started it because I was having so much trouble with those particular kids but it turns out that doing rules like this is more what I needed. It just makes things clear cut which I like. The bulletin board with them is only because I had space there. Even without having it on the wall, the rules would still be in their notebooks and would absolutely still be in effect. Instead of pointing to the wall, I'd just flip to the page in their notebook. Don't be afraid to not do exactly what they tell you to do, you need to figure out your own style :)

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  2. To me, these actually do align with what "they" tell you. They just call these procedures, not rules. As in, you'd have two overarching rules for the class such as "Be Respectful" and "Be Responsible" and then you'd have a procedure for everything else that was much more specific: how to enter the room, how to exit the room, how to do group work, how to sharpen a pencil, how to pass in work, etc. (Too many for me to keep up with, though.)

    Like you, I focus more on what behaviors I expect, because middle schoolers are hilarious in their interpretations of vague rules. I've had a student surprised he got a "look" for drumming on his desk during a whole-group discussion. You see, he was just using his fingers, so it's not as loud as using pencils or something (he waited until after class to explain this, so I still like to think of this as a classroom management success). I find the vague rules are better for discussion starters and reflection than day-to-day management.

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    1. Oh I definitely agree that they align with what is considered appropriate classroom behavior, but I was taught that listing any more than like 5 things was too much. That's the part that's just not for me. Middle schoolers (and high schoolers as well I'm learning) absolutely love to argue and push the boundaries so I want to list is all out so there's no question of exactly where the boundary line is.

      That's funny about the drumming. I have actually found a lot that they genuinely don't realize that they're being distracting. We have to remember that they're still just kids and learning so they need that explanation most of the time.

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    2. (a different Sarah teaching math)

      I love "the old gum tree"'s distinction between rules and procedures. This is where I always struggle when it comes to co-creating expectations with students.
      We are supposed to do this for everything - including assignment criteria and such - but sometimes there is a right way to do things, and the kids don't know it yet!

      Maybe posting my own "procedures" would be a good compromise.

      Thanks!
      Sarah

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  3. Hey Sarah,
    I love your blog! This will be my first year teaching and your blog has helped me tremendously this summer! I'm going to be teaching 7th grade Math so I'll be sure to check back frequently!

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    1. Thanks! I'm so glad to help, that was my goal in starting this. Good luck this year :)

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  4. Yay!!! I'm SO happy to have found this page! I'm just finishing up my ClassRoom Management class in college, and this helps me very much!! I love Wong's ideas, but I haven't had a chance to try them out in the class room. Here you have given me a perfect example of what i envision for my future middle school Math classes! Thank You!!

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    1. Oh that's so awesome!! I love hearing that :) I hope you come back when you have a class of your own and fill me in on how it works out. You'll definitely find a million ideas out there, but there is no right and wrong on anything..it's just whatever works for you and your kids. Good luck!!

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  5. Sarah,

    How did you print out your expectations so huge? I love this and want to steal this, but I don't know how to print them so big!

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  6. I have just stumbled upon your blog and reading your ideas has just given me the kick i needed and made me super excited to start the new year! Your "Expectation" bulletin is exactly what i needed! I have my "vague" rules posted on my door- which still holds value but this refined list with definitely save me from many arguments with my students who need constant reminding on a daily basis. THANK YOU!

    ps. I feel you are a kindred spirit. I too prefer things insanely organized and when i came to Canada's north the kids looked at me like i was crazy. Two years later, I like to think they see the value in it ;) Either way, they have stopped fighting me on it and try their best to keep it clean. Mission accomplished:)

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  7. Great suggestions.. I'm going to borrow some for my new school year. Thank you!

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  8. Sarah, I am so happy to have stumbled across your blog. I have been out of the classroom for about 11 years and because of a move to a new state I am considering teaching again. I have been trying to brush up and re-learn how to teach. Your blog has been so helpful to me! Thank you so much for freely sharing your ideas!

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