Todd Whitaker, author of What Great Teachers Do Differently, believes that expectations are more important than rules in a classroom. Clearly established expectations that are consistently enforced are the mark of a great instructor. Coupled with positive relationships with the students, a teacher may spend more time leading and less time managing.
Less effective teachers are entangled in the litigation of rules, or the crafting and enforcing of consequences.
Over the last few years I have focused on expectations: Listen, Participate, and Be respectful. I frequently repeat my expectations, especially when a distraction occurs. For a “repeat offender”, I might
whisper a firm reminder of the expectation that is being ignored, and state that we’ll talk later about the disruption. I make sure to return to the students after class and we work on an appropriate consequence.
In prior years I’ve brainstormed lists of rules with the class, but found I needed a staff of lawyers to implement these programs with any degree of integrity.
The most precious resource we have as teachers in time. That said, the richest, most impactful period of time is right at the beginning of the school year. It is those first few days that you determine a great deal of the quality of the classroom for the rest of the school year. Students are at their most attentive at that time; they are also at their highest level of concern, using all their faculties to sense what their fate will be for the next 180 days. To take those days lightly, without profound reflection and preparation, is to risk the impact of a whole school year for several young people.