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teachers already know that to manage a classroom you need to have clear
rules and enforce them fairly and consistent. It sounds easy enough,
However, many still struggle to follow through.
So what is it? What is the hidden snake in the grass that keeps us from following through?
Being unsure what did and didn’t constitute breaking your own rules.
In other words, many teachers have their class rules posted, but are uncertain when or under what circumstances they should be enforced.
For example, if during a lively discussion a student calls out with a good answer without raising their hand, you might hesitate.
It doesn’t feel right in the moment to enforce a consequence, but technically it was against the rules.
When you do enforce, it might feel awkward and nitpicky. And when you don’t, it will open the floodgates. Before long, just about every student in the class is calling out, now even louder and more aggressively than before.
Some teachers might think:
If they say something amusing and their students laugh out loud, did that break a rule?
What about quiet talking during transitions?
What about when a student gets out of their seat to lean into a group discussion or to walk over to get a tissue?
Should they or shouldn’t they enforce a consequence?
And if they don’t, won’t that cause others to get up for no reason at all?
What about if a student rolls their eyes or groans when they announce a quiz?
Do those behaviors rise to the level of disrespect? These are just a few examples, but you get the picture.
Not knowing where the line was caused these teachers to freeze, question themselves, and then, more often than not, do nothing at all—which inevitably would lead to other, more serious and disruptive behaviors.
So what’s the solution?
The solution is to decide ahead of time exactly what is and isn’t okay, and then teach and model what that looks like to students.
In other words, you must take some time to sit and ponder and visualize what each rule actually means in your unique classroom (what you want it to mean) before your students arrive on the first day of school.
You must be clear in your own mind where the boundary lines are before you can ever effectively teach them to your students or enforce them consistently.
Which means you have to eliminate all nuance and gray area.
You have to make decisions about whether you want your students to be able to call out in certain circumstances—like a Socratic-type discussion, for example—or get up to get a tissue or stand during group discussions or chat during transitions.
Most often, the rule is what it is.
But if allowing very specific, narrowly defined exceptions makes your classroom better, then go ahead and do it. Just make sure your students know inside and out precisely what those exceptions are.
Once your boundaries are clearly established, and non-negotiably set in stone, all awkwardness and indecision will disappear.
And being consistent becomes a lot easier.
Adapted from an article at: