No! Don’t! Never!

Aviva’s Classroom Rules

1) Don’t talk. No, scratch that. You can talk, but only in a whisper voice. On second thought, you can talk in an indoor voice, as long as you’re talking about your learning. But wait: what about those students that need quiet? Okay, never mind what I said before. Here’s the new rule: You can talk, but only in this part of the classroom. The other side is for students that need quiet. Well, that is unless there are more people that need to talk, in which case, we might need to reconsider our boundaries. Let me get back to you on this! 

2) Stay in your seat. Oh wait, what if students are working in groups? You may need to move seats then. So what I really should say is that you need to stay in a seat. But you may have a question for someone, so you can move if you need to ask this question. Don’t just wander though. Well, unless you’re asking questions for some kind of survey, in which case, wandering is allowed. This is wandering with a purpose though, but then again, that’s just common sense.

3) Ask before you leave the classroom. That is unless I’m doing guided reading. Then you can wave to me, and that’s kind of like asking. But wait: what if I miss the wave? How will I know that you’re gone? I guess that I need to make some kind of sign back to you. What if I don’t want you to leave though? What will the sign be then? Gosh this is confusing!

And this is the problem with rules

In the past, I’ve spent much time at the beginning of the school year co-constructing and posting rules. This just made sense to me, until the rules started to make less sense. You see, I really do believe that there are exceptions to just about every rule. So here are our two rules from this year:

Be polite and respectful.

Make safe choices.

These rules ensure that everyone is treated well and everyone remains safe and happy at school. Have I posted these rules? No. But do the students understand the importance of both? Yes! To me, this is what matters.

How do you develop classroom and school rules? Why do you make the decisions that you do? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!



8 thoughts on “No! Don’t! Never!

  1. I’m wrestling with this one – and I do that on a regular basis. I teach 5 different classes a day, and they all need different variations, depending on the groups. I have a friend, who is an amazing intermediate teacher, and hers are: Be kind, Work hard, be fair. That’s it….and that works for her. I find that sometimes the classroom climate I’m trying to create may not be the same one as the one they’re used to, and that takes some tightrope-walking on my part (and theirs).

    I have a rule about speaking as much French as you can once we’ve done our opening routine – that’s different for every person in the room, and we talk about that at the beginning of the year; but I’m also trying to create an environment where people aren’t afraid to try, and that can be difficult too.

    One thing I do is use words such as “expectations” and “rituals” rather than rules, and we talk about the differences. I also ask my students what their expectations of me are, and we post those, too.

    There was an interesting blog post I read this year about rules, and how “respect each other” really needs to be broken down for some kids. I just tried a quick search, but didn’t have any luck – will dig through some of my curated stuff to see if I can find it. It was a little bit of push-back to some of my thinking.

    I think you’re asking great questions here, and there are no easy answers.

    • Lisa, I absolutely LOVE your comment, as you made me think about a couple of things I didn’t mention here.

      1) I tend to use the word “expectations” more than “rules” in the classroom. We talk a lot about different expectations, and students help me establish these (in addition to Success Criteria). I think that they usually tend to overlap.

      2) While MOST of my students do well with these two general rules, for other students, I need to be more specific. This is where I might use Social Stories and/or Task Analysis to help further explain the rules. This is especially beneficial for my students with autism.

      I guess that this sums up the problem. It’s hard to create rules that work well for everyone. While many students may do well with more general rules and/or expectations, others need more support. Other students may do well with the general rules in one situation (e.g., in their homeroom class), but may need more specific rules in another class. And the rules may even change depending on the student and his/her needs.

      So much to consider …

  2. Hi Aviva and Lisa,
    Good discussion (and I love how you wrote the almost-stream-of-consciousness rule morphing, Aviva!)
    Much of my thoughts around this stem from my experience with Tribes (“Tribes is a process that creates a culture that maximizes learning and human development.”) In Tribes, there are four agreements: mutual respect, appreciations and no put-downs, attentive listening, and the right to pass. For my younger students, I slightly modified the language: be nice / listen / good words yes, bad words no / try your best to do your job. Many of the activities that the Tribes process recommends involves teasing apart what mutual respect looks like, sounds like, and feels like.
    There comes a time when certain groups and I talk about how individual classes and teachers have different tolerance levels for noise, neatness, etc. Making them clear helps – even for me!

    • Thank you for sharing your Tribes experience, Diana! I don’t know much about Tribes, but I do like the sound of these four big rules. They certainly make a lot of sense. Your last line really caught my attention because I think this is so important. No matter how specific we can be in our rules/expectations, students need to learn to adjust to the different expectations of different teachers. And in my experience, they do. I’m not sure that there’s really a way around this either, as we are all so unique … and I think that this happens to be a good thing.


  3. Hmm, I never really taught so much about these rules! Who knew they had such small little points that just didn’t make sense?
    I figure that when teachers make rules, they are very broad. No details. Just post a big chart paper with a bunch of rules on the first day of school. Come on! Students are less likely to feel comfortable with so many rules! Many students usually already know the basics. Just tell them the extras. No need to use chart paper whatsoever.
    Easy way to make rules: Take a look at other classrooms. Do what you did last year? Maybe tweak some general rules?
    The worst thing a teacher can possibly do when making rules is be angry, stressed, or super happy. Like they say, you should never make a decision if you are extremely happy or angry, but when you are in a relaxed mood. Same rule applys to making rules!
    Great post! It really got me thinking… P.S. I am back from Norway 😉

    • Yusra, you make some great points here about rules! I completely agree. I also think that most students know the important rules, even without them being posted. It’s amazing how much of them are common sense. Maybe a quick discussion on the first day of school could help. So many things to consider …

      Thanks for commenting here! It’s great to hear your opinion!
      Miss Dunsiger

      P.S. Glad to hear you’re back from Norway! I hope you had a fantastic trip!

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