Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rules vs. Procedures

This is probably one of my favorite parts about starting a new year; I get to mold the atmosphere of my own classroom from day one. And I know to more experienced teachers this post is going to be "Duh, Mrs. Callahan." but for others this may help. What I have found through readings and experience is simply:

Rules = Consequence; Procedures= Practice

I know, I know... I am genius. (Just kidding) But I see constantly in school students receiving consequences for broken procedures when a lot of the time they are just confused on how to follow said procedure. I want to back up and start with rules, they seem to be easier and everyone has them.

"Rules create a strong expectation about the things that are important to you." - Harry Wong

In setting rules there should of course be tiers. Rules that if broken you get a firm talkin' to and rules that get you a one way ticket to the office with the possibility of never returning. I had a really good teacher friend who is a classroom management guru talk to me once about looking at rules like you look at the US government.
1) Federal Laws- In the school world these laws are the big ones brought down by the school or school board and you as teacher have nothing to do but follow these to a T. Examples include: Bringing a weapon to school, drugs, fighting, etc). These rules are pretty easy, send them to the office (usually with an escort is best)
2) State Laws- These in my situation are set by the grade level teams and are SUPPOSE to be consistent across the board. This is my goal for this next year. But, these would be rules like; being tardy, disrupting class, calling someone a name, etc. The team should also come up with consistent consequences for these laws.
If you need help on this one I would suggest reading The First Days of School by Harry Wong and/or Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones. Both have excellent ideas on classroom rules and consequences.
3)County Laws- I absolutely cannot stand students up out of their seats and walking around without permission. Your hand needs to go up before your bum! In another class however the teacher could be okay with giving students that freedom and that works for them. These rules are the smaller, personal ones with smaller consequences attached. These rules, in my class anyways, usually deserve a redirection or a quick private conversation outside.

I am still in the process of fine tuning my classroom rules on once I have them finalized and pretty I will re post on this topic. But a final note on rules "All discipline plans have consequences. POST YOUR CONSEQUENCES"- Harry Wong

"When students know how the class is run, they will be more willing to do whatever you want of them."- Harry Wong.
In my personal opinion I think teaching procedures are WAY more fun than rules. Rules have a negative outcome...I am a positive person...doesn't go together. Procedures have to be taught, they have to be practiced and they have to be perfected. Once all these things happen your room will be smooth sailing. Look around your room. What will your students do everyday? What will they do on a weekly basis? What will they do sporadically but will still need to practice and be ready? All of these things are procedures that need to be taught. My first year of teaching I read CHAMPs: A Proactive & Positive Approach to Classroom Management for Grades K-9- Randy Sprick. This is a great way to look at and post procedures. I used it my whole first year and still use the concept now but don't post the actually CHAMP posters. For those of you unfamiliar CHAMP stands for:
C-Conversation (What kind of conversation should be happening during this activity)
H- Help (How do you get help during this activity)
A- Activity (What is this activity, what should you exactly be doing)
M- Movement (How should your movement look during this activity)
P- Participation (How do I as the teacher know you as the student are participating fully)

I use this now to look at my procedures and then come up with a simplified way of displaying it.

Once you know what you procedures are, it is now time to practice. This part always makes the evil side of me giggle. I won't bore you with every way in which I practice all my procedures but my favorite is taking students to lunch. Right before lunch, last year, I had my "Pre-AP" class. In order to get from my classroom to the cafeteria you have to turn down 4 different hallways and go down two flights of stairs. The very first day I taught my students that they would stop at 4 different spots on our "magical" journey to the lunch room. BUT FIRST! In order to even get out the door they had to line up SILENTLY IN the classroom. Mind Blown! Remember procedures are all about consistency so EVERY (and I kid you not EVERY) time they would try and line up and ONE person would talk in lunch line we would sit down and practice again. Right before Christmas break the class was a mood and, no joke, we practice lining up in lunch line for so long I started eating my salad waiting for them to get it right. Heh heh heh.

I am a very firm believer that classroom management is 98% procedures and 2% rules/consequences. If your students know they are to come in silently and begin work, if you have practiced it 100 times, if the students know if they don't do it they will practice 100 times more, then I promise you, you are way less likely for a student to come in, push another student, call another one a name and then get sent to the office.

Again, once I finalize my rules, consequences and procedures I will make them look pretty and post pictures. Final thoughts on all of this

"Effective teachers manager with procedures. Every time the teacher wants something done, there must be a procedure or a set of procedures." -Harry Wong
"The standards in any classroom are defined by whatever the students can get away with"-Fred Jones
"Its easier to have high standards than to have low standards"- Fred Jones (I promise you this one is true!)

Mrs. Callahan

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