There is a BIG difference between RULES and PROCEDURES!
Too often I see teachers making the FATAL error of turning some procedures into rules and regretting it all year long! To be truthful, I made this error many times and lived to regret it! Each year I tried to come up with a better set of RULES!! I finally got it figured out so I could live with them the entire school year without kicking myself.
The main difference is this:
Rules MUST be responded to with a CONSEQUENCE. They must be "punished," in a sense.
Procedures just need to be RETRAINED! They never need to be "punished!"
This is why "they" tell you to only have four or five RULES. And a set of standard responses/consequences.
You need THE BIGGIES to be the RULES. The ones where, if broken, the rhythm of the classroom, the purpose for you all being there is impeded. In other words, YOU CAN'T TEACH AND THEY CAN'T LEARN!
THE BIGGIES: So what are they? After many years of trial and error and many regrets, I finally decided for myself there really are only a few that stop you from teaching and students from learning.
Here are the RULES I would recommend for a Middle School classroom:
- Do not use vulgar language.
- Listen when the teacher is talking.
- Respect the rights and property of others.
- No personal grooming in class.
These RULES cover the basics, where you can make a case-by-case decision: Is this a rule or not? Does this behavior stop the teaching and learning process from happening in my classroom. Do I need to apply a consequence?
BY THE WAY: The easiest First Consequence, is to say, "Rule Four, Janie!" She will know you've seen her with that mirror and lipstick. And usually stop!
Or if someone is constantly whispering while you are talking, "Rule Two, Sam!" He has a chance to stop without a consequence, but of course, you follow through if he continues to whisper!
The Procedures are the classroom structure you use to ensure that teaching/learning moves along nicely. They are things like how to line up, how to pass papers in, what you are supposed to be doing when you enter the room, etc.
If the class lines up noisily, you just say, "I'm sorry, did we all forget how to line up? Please sit down while we go over that Procedure! Then you project a clever, cutesy image with type and discuss it and then have them try again. And again. BUT YOU NEVER PUNISH!
So, I urge all teachers to be very sure of the RULES you want to enforce. Are you sure you want to punish for every tardy? (The school probably already has one for this! Don't duplicate!) Are you sure you want a Be Ready with Book Open type of rule? This is more a Procedure and easily re-trainable!
Email Marcia for a much more detailed Dropbox download with Rules and Procedures handouts, a PowerPoint, and more!