I’m sure most people have quite clear rules for their classrooms, but one of my new (school) year’s resolutions is to build a more constructive relationship with some of my more challenging students. Don’t worry, I will not be describing specific difficulties, as I feel it would be unprofessional (as well as potentially being stupid – see the case of Elizabeth Collins for more detail). Instead, here’s my planned solution.
Over the past few years I’ve used a set of five rules which I gave to my students, and most agreed that they could follow them.
- Ask for help
- Follow instructions
This year I’ll be spending my first lesson asking them to help me write a set of rules we can all follow. Admittedly, I plan to ‘steer’ them a little (my own expectations can be seen here as a pdf: class rules), but they will still be doing most of the work. I will start by asking them to consider what we will all need to do so that we can:
- enjoy the lessons
- understand the ideas
- succeed in the exams
I have a blank table (saved as pdf: classroom rules blank 2010) that they will add their ideas to, perhaps with post-it notes. I’ll refer back to a more permanent version during the year.
I have some thoughts myself about the rules we might eventually end up with, and some will not be negotiable (for example ‘attempt HW’ will be in there somewhere) but the idea here is that by having a greater input they will be more likely to follow them – or at least realise why they receive sanctions if they persist in breaking them. Partly this is for me as well as them. Although I feel that most of the time I have a reasonable rapport with most of my students, I’d like to improve this. I don’t want to be popular, necessarily – but I don’t want to be unpopular, either. At least partly because it makes my job harder!
Number one prediction for the rules they will suggest for me: ‘less sarcasm’.
I’ll follow up this post with some of their suggested classroom rules, and how it works for me. I know this isn’t a new idea, but I felt more enthusiasm for it having read the ideas of Geoff Petty. I picked up his book Evidence-Based Teaching over the summer and am going to be trying out a lot of the ideas from it. After all, it’s nice as a scientist to know that some of the suggestions actually have supporting data! I’ll try to post a proper review when I’ve read some more of it.