RULES! Hem, hem, now that I have your attention...

Rules, do you use general principals:

  1. Respect yourself and others
  2. Resolve problems responsibly
  3. Etc. ,etc.
or do you take a procedural approach?

1. Respect others by not calling them names, hitting them, stealing their stuff, etc.
2. Start work on time (go to your seat, look at the assignment on the board, begin working immediately)

OR do you do something else?


I have a list of six "expectations" that I share on the first day - they are my expectations for my students, but we also discuss their expectations for me. Built into those, we will discuss behavioral stuff like procedures, etc. but I also hope that they convey my philosophy of learning math to my students (without having to actually use the word "philosophy" and thus immediately cause a slumber to fall upon the entire class). Here are the six expectations; I'm only listing them without the expanded stuff. Also keep in mind that this is for middle school level.
  • I expect you to communicate,
  • I expect you to try hard,
  • I expect everyone to show their work,
  • I expect you to ask if you don't understand an idea,
  • I expect you to have fun, and
  • I expect you to respect everyone in the class.

Regarding Expectations...

In my 10th grade English classes, I've started off the course by having students write an "Expectations Essay" for homework within the first few days of class, in which they address five main points:
  • What do I expect from this course?
  • What do I expect from my classmates?
  • What do I expect from my teacher?
  • What do I expect from myself?
  • How will I have changed by the end of the semester?
It's a short, informal writing exercise that gets the old metacognition going - as they write about their expectations, most of them address the big points about respect, responsibility, etc. After I read the papers, I share with the class what they came up with, and that more or less shapes our course policy (after I get my say, of course!)

For Middle School
I break down my rules into 3 categories: the Frustrating, the Frowned-Upon, and the Forbidden. In the first category is stuff that just bugs me: tapping pencils, writing on my boards, etc. The second is for stuff that's not terrible, but definitely can cause trouble: tipping in your chair, leaving a mess behind, using other people's stuff without asking. The last are for the real "rules" of your class.

It helps me lay out my classroom expectations in a way that's funny and lets us joke, but also makes it clear that there are different "levels" of infractions with different consequences.

Then, I give out my rules for myself and the things that they should expect of me. It helps demonstrate that there is a code of behavior for everyone in my classroom, not just students.