classroom management, first day, hidden rules, new teacher

Do We Need to Set the Rules? Or Do Kids Already Know Them?

Photo Courtesy of Bloggertone

Yesterday was my very first day with my 24 new 5th graders.  I don’t know who was more nervous; me or them.  As we got settled into our new tables, 23 sets of eyes on me  (one child is still on vacation) eagerly awaiting what this teacher would share with them I asked; what is the first thing teachers usually talk about on the first day of school?  Hands shot up and one child blurted out “Rules!”

It’s true, isn’t it?  One of the first things we welcome students into our rooms with is indeed the discussion of rules.  Walk into almost any classroom on the first day of school and somewhere on the agenda is a discussion of rules or an explanation of the rule poster that is already on the wall.  As some of you may know, there are no rules posted in my room.  And yet the kids knew that rules had to be discussed.  They knew it was important, they knew that in fact it is one of the first things we choose to welcome students with.

The room got really quiet, the kids were waiting for me to list the rules but I didn’t.  Instead I asked them whether they knew the rules?  A couple of kids nodded.  “Again, don’t you already know the rules of a classroom?”  More nods.  “Isn’t this your 6th year in school?”  All nodded and starting to wake up a little.  “Do you need me to explain the rules or can you tell me what they are?”  With this, the buzzing started.  That little bit of chatter that kids get involved in when they start to see the light.  “We know the rules, I know how to act, we can set the rules….”

So I told them to discuss rules at their tables; what works for a classroom, what type of environment do we need to learn in, what do you need, and the kids took it from there.  They all brainstormed and then shared their ideas and guess what; they knew it all.  How to respect, how to work, how to be a community.  We discussed fidgeting which in my book just means the teacher is boring or you need to get out of your seat.  We discussed interruptions and blurting out, how to be safe, how to be nice (You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but you do have to be nice to them).  And then we decided that we didn’t need to discuss anymore because we all knew what the expectations were.  In fact, they decided we didn’t need to post our discussion because our rules are going to change and that maybe they shouldn’t be called rules but rather just expectations.  And with that our expectations were set and for now I don’t need to spend anymore time discussing them.

I gave my students a voice and let them lead and they showed me they already know.  I am so excited for the rest of the year.

2 thoughts on “Do We Need to Set the Rules? Or Do Kids Already Know Them?”

  1. Yes–ever more so by the time the kids get to high school. And yet, like lawyers, we feel that if we don't go over rules, we leave ourselves exposed to students looking for loopholes.

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