Friday, August 10, 2018

Rules: Tight or Lose?

I had a debate with a friend who is also a teacher this morning. That friend favors tighter rules than me--I don't like schools to look or feel like military academies and prefer a more open culture. My friend prefers a tighter culture and more rules. I believe my friend is a great teacher. She doesn't work in my school system and she shares stories of notes she receives from parents, students, and administrators regularly that value her work. Her school environment--the town, students, and community-at-large, is demographically different from where I teach, and I don't believe we can set one-size-fits-all-rules for all schools as learning communities have to respond to the children they teach and those children's needs and interests.

That being said, the conversation left me wondering about rules that are too tight or too lose. My reading has showed me that when we're more relaxed and we give students behavioral parameters that are realistic, those students perform better. Yet, on the other hand, if students' behavior is unruly and out of control that can lead to safety issues and disrupt good learning. There's definitely a fine balance between rules that are too tight and rules that are too lose.

Also as I think about this, I think about time and capacity. If you spend lots and lots of time enforcing tight rules, you may build an antagonistic environment where it seems like the rules are most important and where capacity wanes since the focus is not dull rules. On the other hand though, if you don't focus on rules at all, you can create an undisciplined environment that does not set the stage for good learning and teaching.

So as I think of rules and whether those rules are too tight or too lose, I realize that we have to strike a good balance where we foster and teach routines that lead to a safe, supportive, positive, and ripe learning environment and also give some elasticity to the rules we make so that we can stretch those rules to fit the students, priorities, and overarching focus of what we do.

None of us in a school will probably wholly agree on all rules since we all see the school culture and environment through the lenses of our positions, teaching spaces, and expectations, but we can strike a good balance between too tight and too lose rules, the kind of rules that set the stage for optimal learning, teamwork, and support for one another.