Opinion
Teaching Opinion

Fewer Rules, Better Schools

By David Ginsburg — September 01, 2013 1 min read

“Procedures are methods or processes for getting things done
in the classroom. Rules are used to set limits.”

Harry and Rosemary Wong, The First Days of Schoool

Looking for an area to focus on in your final hours of preparation for the new school year? Well, one area you shouldn’t focus on is disciplinary rules, which are generally unnecessary and unproductive, as I’ve explained in previous posts. But before you revisit those posts, check out Marvin Marshall’s recent article on teachers.net, 5 Classroom Tips for a New School Year, where he offers these tips:

Teach procedures, rather than rely on rules. Communicate in positive terms. Rather than aiming at obedience, promote responsibility. Encourage reflection Elicit a consequence or a procedure to redirect impulses that will help each student become more responsible

Read Marshall’s full article for more on these suggestions (all of which I agree with). And here are past posts of mine where, like Marshall, I make the case against disciplinary rules and for classroom procedures:

As a Rule, Forget About Rules New Year's Resolution: Classroom Procedures, Not Rules

There’s a difference between trying to control students and establishing control of your classroom. Rules are about compliance. Procedures are about coherence. Students need structure in order to learn to their potential. But they also need flexibility and freedom within that structure in order to learn to their potential. Procedures provide the structure students need to be successful self-directed learners.

Does this mean there’s no place for rules? Not necessarily. But even when rules can be constructive, they may still be destructive unless we communicate them effectively with students. See my post, Classroom Rules Rules, for tips on how to do this.

Best wishes for a successful school year!

Image by Herminutomo, provided by Dreamstime license

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The opinions expressed in Coach G’s Teaching Tips are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.