Teacher Touts Chucking Classroom Rules, Consequences

By Liana Loewus — February 13, 2013 1 min read
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In this ASCD SmartBlog post, a 20-year veteran teacher describes how he went from a “classic rules-and-consequences” management style to a “no-rules, no-consequences” approach.

Mark Barnes writes that for many years, he had a list of punishments for particular infractions. Chewing gum = detention. Head on the desk = stand up for the rest of class. He was proud of his reputation as a strict disciplinarian, he writes. But eventually, he realized it wasn’t effective:

What I failed to comprehend in my "I'm-the-meanest-teacher-in-the-school" approach was that I had created a classroom based on control, and I was alienating my students, and my creation was alienating my students. They may have, on occasion, acquiesced to my list of demands, but most of the time their compliance came at the price of learning. After all, what child would embrace education in this kind of militant classroom?

Barnes made some drastic changes, both to his methods and his mindset. Most importantly, he changed his focus from control to student results. He explains:

A no-rules, no-consequences learning community, based on cooperation and filled with exciting activities and projects engages students and eliminates boredom. When students are working collaboratively, using technology, leaving their seats and, yes, even chewing gum, they are more likely to complete activities and projects and less likely to be disruptive. Rules and consequences, in this bustling, student-centered classroom, are easily replaced with discussions of mutual respect, individual conferences with those who take longer to embrace the controlled chaos that governs the room and rapport-building rather than strictness.

The post is short on specifics but, well, Barnes is publishing a book that is sure to include them. What’s your initial reaction? Is this sort of adjustment necessary or idealistic? Is it risky to encourage teachers to let go of the reins?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.